Computer science graduates should forget about top jobs in the public sector or becoming the CEO of a large company, even a technology company, if they choose to stay in the UK. That's the warning from prominent MP and Computer Science graduate David Davis.
Instead, the qualification most likely to land the top management roles, even in the technology industry, is the much-maligned Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) degree, the MP for Haltemprice and Howden told V3.
Davis explained that such concerns were voiced by Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering in the Computer Laboratory at the University of Cambridge, when he gave evidence to the committee for the original Draft Communications Data Bill, much of which now forms part of the current Investigatory Powers Bill.
"The committee asked him what he thought of GCHQ. He said they're all right, but that when his PhD students graduate they have two choices. They can go to California and get paid a couple of hundred thousand dollars a year, or they can go to GCHQ and get paid £25,000 a year," he said.
"But that isn't the reason the best ones don't go to GCHQ. The reason the best ones go to California is because there they can end up running or owning the company. In GCHQ they've got the wrong qualifications to run it. That will be done by somebody with PPE."
Davis argued that it's part of the British mentality that those with "liberal arts degrees", as Davis put it, get to the top, irrespective of the function of the organisation.
He explained that this creates problems in terms of the leadership at organisations like GCHQ, which can easily be misled by technical experts who may have their own agenda.
Davis added that the plea from FBI director James Comey in July 2015 to stop or limit commercially available encryption is a symptom of this trend.
"It's idiotic," said Davis of the idea that intelligence agencies are thoroughly defeated by encryption.
"I expect the FBI head was a liberal arts specialist who'd been told [that encryption in uncrackable] by someone who wanted to make a point. It's a demonstration of the weakness of our system of education in the West and of our promotion systems.
"They don't understand some of the problems they're dealing with. Some of the technicians will, but the heads won't necessarily in great detail.
"The problem is you can't just write a half-baked summary for the boss and expect him to understand it, because it actually involves understanding a whole series of things, like the mathematics of how databases work, and how search and sift routines work."
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