Aussie IT students get financial boost

Potential IT students could receive a boost from the Australian Computer Society Foundation, which has announced US$257,000 in IT scholarships.

Potential IT students could receive a boost this Christmas with the news the Australian Computer Society (ACS) Foundation has announced US$257,000 (AU$300,000) in IT scholarships yesterday--but next year, the figure could rise to US$429,000 (AU$500,000), ACS claims.

The AU$300,000 scholarship money will be divided amongst 20 universities to distribute as they see fit, ACS Foundation Executive Director John Ridge told ZDNet Australia. "We've left the size of the scholarship to the university," he said, adding that the bulk of them will not be full scholarships, but rather one-off payments of around US$2,145 (AU$2,500).

The initiative may not have a big impact this year, Ridge said, as the "timing was later than ideal". The ACS discussed the timing and decided that it was "better going out with something, albeit a bit late", he continued.

Next year, however, the scholarships will be announced around August or September, and Ridge believes more sponsors will come to the party, bringing the scholarship amount to over AU$500,000. "We've already had a good amount of response from the industry," he said, adding he is also hopeful the government will come on board.

The sum to be distributed this year comes from some industry sponsors such as IBM and Tripoint, but also from the ACS Foundation itself.

The scholarship money is not the only good news for businesses struggling to hire IT talent. "Instead of being an end in itself it's the start of a larger program," Ridge said adding that by the first quarter next year, the Society will roll out a nationwide marketing program to improve the image of the ICT industry, as discussed at the Great IT Jobs Debate hosted by the Society last month.

Ridge is also hoping for a change in the way universities set up their courses. Although there has been a lot of publicity around falling IT enrollments at university, Ridge said that some courses have more students than they can handle: for instance, Professor Steve Elliot's Business Information Systems courses at the University of Sydney, where there are three students applying for each place and to make the cut, students need to have a UAI (Universities Admission Index) of over 95.

"Steve doesn't need any more enrollments, because he can't handle the enrollments he's got now," Ridge said.