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It isn’t only schools nowadays that are feeling the stretch of limited budgets, but also universities around the UK and are looking at ways to save money without comprising  high quality in learning for students and still provide opportunity to achieve industry recognised certification and prepare them for the working world after university.

Birmingham City University has embedded  Microsoft IT Academy (ITA) into its curriculum, not only as a cost saving way of adding specific and appropriate content to courses, but for students, ITA is a globally recognised programme.

“We’re able to engage students in achieving industry recognized certifications which will significantly increase their opportunities of employment.” 

Rehan Bhana, ITA Manager, Birmingham University

Employability is an explicit priority across the whole of Birmingham City University “deeply embedded into all our courses”, particularly at the Faculty of Technology Engineering and the Environment.

“It’s achieved by a combination of student support structures, excellent networking with business, and attention to curriculum content, with full use of ‘vendor specific’ programmes including Microsoft ITA”

Associate Dean Peter Rayson.

“It’s not just a short-skills based course,” says Rehan Bhana. “It’s a career development plan.”

A student enrolling for BSc (Hons) Information Communications Technology and Computer Networks, as well as associated professional development programmes, will encounter ITA material within an industry scenario, proving their knowledge and skills to gain awards such as Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) and Microsoft Certified IT Professional (MCITP).

One of fifty across the globe, Birmingham City University was nominated to pilot the delivery of the new MTA program. Around 100 ITA students attempted one, two and some, three separate areas of study. Over 150 exams were taken in the first term of academic year 2010/2011 with a success rate of 60% for a pass mark of 70%.

“Using the MTA exams as formative assessments has not only increased the value of our globalised curriculum but enhanced the student learning experience by introducing a feedback mechanism from beyond the classroom”

Rehan Bhana

By developing their competitiveness in the IT Skills market, students from Birmingham University have found that they stand out when applying for summer jobs and work placements above others with this skills gap.

“Our students emerge as confident hybrid managers with a unique mix of technical and managerial competency, whose skills are in demand in the IT industry and beyond.” – Birmingham course description.

With the arrival of cloud computing, having strengths in many area’s of IT is fast becoming more sort after.

A recent Microsoft White Paper on the impact of Cloud technology on IT careers, (A Guide to the Cloud. Career Opportiunity for ITP ros) suggests that the gap will widen as businesses strive to come to terms with profound change.

“Put bluntly, the role of the ІT professional іs being transformed, demanding a new set of technical and managerial skills, blurring the lines between business and technical decision making and placing ІT much closer to the heart of business strategy.”

Engagement with ITA brings benefit not only to IT students but to all students and staff, because it makes a very comprehensive range of Microsoft software available. With the wide menu of available programmes and qualifications makes it possible to deliver significant areas of staff Career Professional Development (CPD) efficiently and cost-effectively.

“The University has made significant savings,” says Rehan Bhana going on to explain that on two recent occasions the ITA delivered in-house CPD for both academic and technical staff in the area of MS Project Server Microsoft Project Server and Windows 7. The overall commercial value of these courses would exceed £30,000, delivering the programs in-house has reduced this cost by 30-40%.