School leavers are encouraged to study IT at university even though many are likely to feel that their experience with the latest devices and social networks greatly outpaces their lecturers', according to delegates at a roundtable discussion on Thursday hosted by recruiter Adecco.
The delegates included a number of IT education organisations, such as Intellect, Henley Business School and e-skills UK, as well as tech firms like Getronics.
Most of the attendees suggested that, although the younger generation has grown up with the internet, social networks and high-specification mobile devices, there are important skills students can pick up from attending university.
The attendees maintained that, despite the £9,000 which IT students could have to shell out for a year's study, a degree will arm them with personal and project management skills currently lacking in the industry.
"The biggest demand in the IT industry is for employees with a good business understanding as well as traditional skills," said e-skills UK director of marketing Collette Lux, adding that these skills often come with a university education.
Lux pointed to how some of the newest job applicants show a lack of understanding about what is expected from them in the workplace, and even use the same disposable language in job applications that they would in texts to their friends.
Keiichi Nakata, a reader in Social Informatics at Henley Business School, argued that an IT degree will help students develop their personal skills and learn how to understand problems in a way they would not be able to do elsewhere.
"Some students may be more knowledgeable in particular types of technology than their lecturers, but at university they learn how to analyse the functionality and opportunities that technology brings," he said.
However, Justin Parks, who heads up the online recruiting process for cloud services firm Getronics, said that his company reviews all the applications it receives equally, including those from people without degrees.
Parks considers finding the right IT skill set as more important than whether an applicant has a degree.
"We struggle to find the right candidates with new IT skills such as cloud computing, application development and consultancy services. These skills are really few and far between," he said.
Parks added that a three-year degree course may be too long for IT students. "There's a huge amount of IT change in that time. It may be that the role a student wanted no longer exists by the time they finish," he said.
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