The University of the West of England (UWE) has entered into a five-year collaboration with HP to develop and run an IT degree, designed to increase graduates' chances of finding a job at the end of the course.

Considering the demand for IT professionals, UK IT graduates are among the most likely to have difficulty in finding employment after college, according to UWE director of marketing and communications Keith Hicks, because technology requirements in business change faster than education can support them.

The course in development includes a guarantee from HP of 20 internships over five years from the expected launch in September 2011.

UWE has a long-standing relationship with HP, Hicks told CIO, dating back to the late 1980s, soon after the college's inception as Bristol Polytechnic. The vendor has worked with the college in the past over research projects, but this is the first time it has actively participated in a degree course with it. As well as taking in students to give them on-the-job experience as interns, HP will work with partners to offer them IT accreditations. HP staff will also go in as senior lecturers and visiting professors to teach students.

Hicks explained that offering higher education involves an element of the college selling its wares to applicants.

He said: "There is a huge amount of transparency in selecting courses. Any applicant has access to information on the A level qualifications of students on the course, levels of existing student satisfaction and employment prospects once the course is finished. HP is a well-respected IT company and aligning the course with it will do no harm [to its reputation with applicants and prospective employers]."

It is hoped that the collaboration between UWE and HP will produce an IT degree that is more in line with employers' expectations and will address the gap between business needs and the talent pool in IT recruits.

Hicks said: "Employers are disappointed with how much effort they have to make in getting graduates up to speed once they join the job market. This can be a costly process, particularly for SMEs. They want students who not only have qualifications, but the underlying aptitude and ability in areas such as team-working and project management right from the start."

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