The Computer Science Crisis

I’m working on a lengthy article for GAMASUTRA that will be the biggest press Phrogram has gotten yet – thanks Beth and thanks GAMASUTRA!

I thought I’d blog some of the data from it, focused on the Computer Science crisis, to do my own little bit to spread the word about this – it is indeed a crisis!

Did you know that there has been a decline in US computer science enrollment of over 60 percent since 2000? Here’s the national data, from a UCLA study:
Computer Science in Crisis
The more one examines that graph and thinks through the long-term implications of those numbers, the more mind-boggling they become. Of course, the rest of the world will be more than happy to pick up that work, if 60% less Americans want to do it. So the real question is: are computer science, software development and game design and development going to go as rapidly overseas as textiles, electronics and other manufacturing already have?Note from the graph that for women, the problem is even worse. There are many factors which are contributing to this trend, and there are a good number of people in Computer Science academia working on it – but clearly there isn’t enough visibility nationally for the issue.

If you are a blogger or a bookmarker, can you help spread the word? That’s our best way to get mainstream media to notice and put attention on this problem, which is of course the best way to get politicians to do something about it.

Other data demonstrates how ironic this decline in computer science is. For instance, computer and video game software sales have more than doubled between 1996 and 2005, and are projected to increase a further 50% from 2005 to 2010. A recent study by Nielsen is particularly stunning: 64% of all players of online games are women. Clearly, then, the lack of undergraduate interest is much more specific to Computer Science as a profession than it is to general usage of computer technology, or specific interest in computer games. Both points are most clearly true for women.

The chart is from:

Vegso, Jay. Interest in CS as a Major Drops Among Incoming Freshmen. Computing Research News, Vol. 17/No. 3, May 2005

Jay’s article is available online at

The GAMASUTRA article will detail out our own response to the Computer Science crisis – watch for it in a few weeks!


3 thoughts on “The Computer Science Crisis

  1. joep says:

    I wonder if the phrase “computer science” delivers an outdated stereotype based on individual craftmanship (the lone hacker, …) . After reading “Software Factories”, I believe there sure is an argument that we have not even begun to approach software “manufacturing” on a large scale, implying a demand for professionals that can produce a ‘wide range of product variants, rapidly assembled from domain specific, re-usable components…’. Ironically, its the game designers who have innovated in this space long before DSL was coined. Hope the University consortium can innovate a new moniker for CS that can capture the essence of this next wave !

  2. theschwartz says:

    I haven’t read “Software Factories” but I certainly agree we’re nowhere near such a process for software. I also agree that “computer science” has a stereotype or image which is nothing like my experience of it. For me, this work is more about creativity, psychology and user-centered design than it is about “science.” I suppose that’s just my own specialty, my own way of doing the work, and other people do it very differently. Maybe the big point here is that the work is so broad in how people can approach is, that many different kinds of people could have fun working in the field. It certainly seems to me we could benefit from having a more inclusive about the kinds of people who work on software, and their roles in the process. Think about manufacturing a car or an airliner as an analogy – there are a lot more “roles” involved in producing those than just “car science” or “airplane science.” 😀

  3. […] accounts for the last peak of interest in the Computer Science education, in the commonly cited graph (featured […]

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