Skillset, the Sector Skills Council for the audio visual industries, has announced the introduction of a new kitemark scheme which will provide a guarantee of quality for degree-level computer games courses.
The scheme has been developed through consultation with ELSPA, TIGA, the higher education sector and Skillset's Computer Games Forum, which is chaired by Eidos' Ian Livingstone. Other members of the forum include representatives from Microsoft, Activision, Take Two, THQ, Rare, Codemasters, EA, Sega and Sony.
Courses across the UK will be evaluated on their programming, art and design strands with a special focus on key areas, such as programming languages, maths, drawing, the ability to follow both creative and technical briefs, communication and the ability to understand potential markets.
Courses will also be assessed for their industry links, with regard to hardware and new technologies, work placements, guest lecturers and industry input into course content.
"The priority is on key enduring and transferable skills. The industry has told us they want and need graduates who are flexible and able to adapt to new technologies and we have built this accreditation scheme around those core values looking for courses that focus on skills that transcend technical boundaries," said Kate O'Connor, deputy CEO and director of policy and development at Skillset.
"We will also ensure that courses that achieve accreditation have a focus on these core technical skills framed within a real-world business context."
The course assessors - all of whom are experienced industry professionals - will complete the first stage of the evaluation process. The lead evaluator, a technical specialist and Skillset staff member, will then look at those courses which have passed the first stage, reviewing student work, touring the facilities and interviewing staff and students. The final decision on whether to award each course a kitemark will be made by the Computer Games Skills Forum.
"Over the years I have seen widely varied content within Computer Games Courses. With many students now taking games courses as an entry point into the industry it is important for us provide guidelines on the types of skills needed to be successful," said EA's Richard Leinfellner, who will be acting as an industry evaluator.
"Being involved in the course evaluation team provides an opportunity to do this. Students will benefit from by getting a firm grounding in the pure core disciplines such as computing, math, science and art with relevant games specific components woven in."
ELSPA deputy director general and Computer Games Forum member Mike Rawlinson added: "Skilled people are invaluable in this industry and to ensure a steady supply, with the right mix of skills needed to bolster our businesses, we have to support the education providers. We can do that through Skillset and this accreditation scheme."
"The courses highlighted by the scheme will help build stronger links between education and industry enabling the industry to become more involved and give us a target for our time and resources in terms of guest lecturing and workshops."
The list of successful courses will be announced in June 2006. More information is available from the Skillset website.