- Published: Wednesday, 30 October 2013 10:12
- Written by Joseph
Education for a global digital future.
With business opportunities and scientific challenges rapidly changing, Abertay University is taking a different approach to education
Celebrating its 125th anniversary in October 2013, Abertay University has always focussed on giving graduates the ability to step straight into a business and be productive from day one. Increasingly, these graduates also look to start their own companies.
Applied education, skills development and close links with the business community are at the heart of Abertay’s offering, and this is nowhere better illustrated than in Abertay’s pre-eminence in computer games education. Students travel from all over the world to study in Dundee, and businesses across the globe clamour to recruit them when (and sometimes even before!) they graduate. Abertay launched the world’s first Computer Games Technology degree in 1997, and today these students follow in the footsteps of the creators of Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto.
“We’ve always taken a different approach to our education,” says Professor Louis Natanson, who leads computer games education at Abertay University. “It started with the early courses, where we listened closely to what the local games companies needed. How they work really closely guided how we teach, and as the industry has changed so have our courses.”
Abertay’s greatest claim to fame is that Dave Jones, who created global hits Lemmings and Grand Theft Auto, learned his programming skills there. Professor Natanson taught him and many of his contemporaries, who went on to change the world’s games industry from tiny offices in Dundee. Indeed, today many of those early pioneers now teach on the Abertay courses or mentor local young companies.
“Computers games is a fascinating industry which is seeing major changes. In many ways, it’s coming back to its roots as a profession open to highly talented small teams,” Natanson adds. “Being able to build an iPhone or Facebook game and sell it yourself is an incredible shift in the market, which opens up huge new opportunities for start-ups – and for investors looking to back the next Angry Birds.”
That same technology is also being harnessed at Abertay’s SIMBIOS Centre to solve problems in cancer drug discovery, climate change and environmental science. Using high-powered games graphics lets scientists from different disciplines share their research visually, and engages policymakers by clearly communicating very complex data.
Applied learning with a real social and economic impact doesn’t stop there. Abertay is also home to the Urban Water Technology Centre, which carries out research and consultancy work on wastewater and environmental management, and the Food Innovation at Abertay service for food businesses looking to analyse and test products before they go to market.
“Collaboration between different subject areas, and between the university and key industries like food and drink, has to be at the core of our approach so we continue making a difference to our students’ lives and to the local and national economy,” explains Dr Nia White, Head of the School of Contemporary Sciences. “And to solve the serious scientific problems facing the world, we need creativity and experts from different disciplines all working together.”
Another pioneering step for Abertay was the launch of the UK’s first Ethical Hacking degree in 2006, where students are taught to understand malicious security attacks so they can build safer, more secure software and systems. This course is now complemented by degrees in Digital Forensics and Security Informatics, and all attract substantial interest from international companies recruiting security experts.
Although a very modern university, Abertay’s roots lie back in the 1880s, when the then Dundee Technical Institute provided applied, industry-focused training for the local textiles industry. Today that same practical focus remains, even if the world has moved from jute to computer games.www.abertay.ac.uk
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