A marketing push by Staffordshire University to promote its new Internet of Things (IoT) degree has divided the channel, with some claiming the course could be out of date before students graduate.
The university is currently publicising the new course – which has been created with HP – ahead of its launch in September 2014. HP announced it was adding Staffordshire University to its list of partner institutes back in the summer in an effort to bridge the IT skills gap and provide young people with more ways to get into the tech industry.
The IoT refers to the increase in everyday objects that will be connected to the internet in the future. Analyst GSMA reckons there will be 50 billion connected devices by 2020 and a slew of big vendors – including Cisco – have placed their bets on the trend.
Staffordshire University's undergraduate degree, which lasts for either three years or four with an industry placement year, includes modules such as maths for computing, data storage and software development, professionalism, enterprise and entrepreneurship and hardware and computer systems.
According to university course-finder site UCAS, Staffordshire University is the only UK institute in the country to offer an IoT degree, and it also offers similar degrees in cloud computing and cybersecurity.
The university says the course is designed to equip students with all they need to know about IoT.
"This is an innovative award in what may be the most important area of computing to develop since the original development of the internet itself," its course description reads. "This is your opportunity to be involved now. The future of much of computing is the internet of things."
It added that the course includes industry-standard qualifications from both Cisco and HP.
Despite Staffordshire University's pitch, some resellers are not convinced.
"I can see how they'll get a three-year degree course out of [IoT] but I'm sceptical that it will have much real value," said Richard Gibbons, software manager at Bechtle. "I'm not sure what actual skills one would have after the course [which would] be sought after in the job market.
"This feels like a research paper idea that's got out into the wild."
ANS Group's chairman Scott Fletcher (pictured) agreed and said after three years of studying, the industry will have moved on, leaving students in the lurch.
"In three years' time, once they've done the course, it will be out of date. University doesn't work in our industry, it's all about apprenticeships where [students] get on-the-job training and skills and learn straight away. If you go to university now, you come out with debt and out-of-date qualifications."
But other resellers were more upbeat. Computacenter's practice lead for storage and data optimisation Bill McGloin said while IoT might not be relevant now, graduates will be well equipped when they look for jobs.
"In our industry we usually talk about trends two years in advance; it was the same with cloud and big data which are happening now. In three years' time [when IoT students graduate] the market will be ready for them at that point so the timing is pretty good really."
Softcat's solutions director Sam Routledge was also optimistic and said his reseller is more interested in passion for IT than anything else.
"We would have no issues whatsoever in recruiting someone with an IoT degree onto our tech graduate programme as really what we are looking for is people with an interest and a passion in what tech can do for business. And if in three years' time that's a market we are in, that's a bonus."
Staffordshire University was contacted for comment by CRN but was unavailable at the time of publication.
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