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University collaborates with IBM to launch new software degree

The University of the Highlands and Islands has joined forces with IBM to launch a BSc (Hons) degree in applied software development to address a growing skills gap.

Available entirely online, the programme will enable students from across the UK and beyond to study through the university’s virtual learning environment and the IBM Cloud, with support from tutors and fellow students. It will be the first time IBM has hosted a degree programme on its cloud computing service.

The use of emerging technologies such as cloud computing, artificial intelligence, data science, and security is growing, with artificial intelligence forecast to contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030*. However, figures from the European Commission’s digital progress report estimate that there will be 500,000 unfilled vacancies for ICT professionals in Europe by 2020.

The university’s new degree aims to address this skills gap, helping students to gain core software development skills which can be applied to a variety of challenges. Students will also have access to IBM’s resources for cloud development and coding, giving them practical experience of the tools used in emerging digital roles.

Students will work in teams throughout the four-year programme, managing their time between practical work and tutorials delivered by video conference. They will initially take on tasks typically carried out by a junior developer in their early professional career, before progressing on to manage full project lifecycles. The degree is designed to enable graduates to develop a portfolio of projects and expertise which are attractive to employers.

Alongside the online programme, students will also take part in an annual bootcamp to cultivate their leadership and team working skills. They will develop their individual expertise with the support of IBM subject experts who will provide mentorship, an industry perspective and networking opportunities.

The development of the new degree is being funded by the European Social Fund and Scottish Funding Council as part of their Developing Scotland’s Workforce programme.

Discussing the benefits of the new course, Professor Crichton Lang, Interim Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “In an increasingly competitive computing sector, employers are looking for candidates who can prove they are confident with cloud services. Students’ confidence will only come with actual hands-on experience with cloud technology. Graduates of our new applied software development BSc (Hons) qualification will be in an extremely good position when applying for highly sought-after roles, as they will enter the world of work with four years’ worth of experience with IBM Cloud.”

Naguib Attia, Vice President, Global University Programs at IBM, added: “Our collaboration with the University of the Highlands and Islands on its applied software development BSc (Hons) is a first for IBM – nowhere else do we currently use IBM Cloud for a full degree programme. The new venture will highlight the full potential of our technology and unlock many doors for the computer programmers of tomorrow. Skills are the most important issue of our time, as the digital landscape evolves, we need to ensure that we nurture young and promising talent – wherever in the country they come from – and equip them with the skills to participate fully in the digital economy.”

Students can enrol for the course through Argyll College UHI, Inverness College UHI, Lews Castle College UHI, Moray College UHI, North Highland College UHI, Orkney College UHI, Perth College UHI, Shetland College UHI and West Highland College UHI.

For more information about the new BSc (Hons) applied software development degree, visit

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