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SAS® helps the University of Glamorgan enhance graduate employability

The Division of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Advanced Technology at the University of Glamorgan has chosen SAS® as its strategic tool for teaching statistics and analytics in Mathematics and Statistics degree courses, to provide the best learning experience for students and to enhance their competitiveness in the job market after graduation

The University of Glamorgan, established from the Polytechnic of Wales in 1992, employs 2,000 academic and support staff, has six academic faculties and over 25,000 students (including 12,000 full-time) studying at campuses in South Wales and via partner locations overseas. Subject areas range from astronomy, accounting and engineering through chemistry, criminology and maths to nursing, nutrition and tourism.

“This is an exciting, young and dynamic university,” says Dr Hasan Al-Madfai, Principal Lecturer in Statistics in the Division of Mathematics and Statistics, Faculty of Advanced Technology. “Our faculty is at the cutting edge of science. We have the ‘traditional’ sciences, maths, engineering and computing, plus new degrees we have developed.” There are two main strands in mathematics and statistics provision: “First, we provide the majority of teaching across the University in all the other courses that require mathematics and statistics, from psychology to chiropractors,” Dr Al-Madfai continues. “That’s our ‘service work’. Second, in the mathematics degree itself, statistics can account for up to 40 percent of the degree.” With statistics a well-established element of the main degree, he says demand for such skills is rising—along with demands for powerful but user-friendly software that “takes away the pain of manual calculations and, in general, helps students better understand and use statistics.

“Teaching using SAS is a pleasure, because SAS gives you the flexibility to start on a point-and-click interface and then delve into the detail, customising your output and programming new routines and functionality. And it does all of this very elegantly through a high level language that’s close to a scripting language—yet it’s still very powerful, giving you all the flexibility you need.”

Providing the best education

Dr Al-Madfai continues, “Mathematics and Statistics is well-established at the University and has been growing steadily for years, while the SAS strand—the statistics offering in the degree—is going from strength to strength. It’s only fair for our students and the people who will ultimately employ them that we provide the very best education possible. We want to produce graduates with both theoretical and applied skills, so they can become useful and productive fast when they’re employed. Our partnership with SAS aims to enhance that: when our students leave, it means they have skills that can be readily applied in employment.”

SPSS is the main statistical package used by the University however the Division of Mathematics and Statistics has adopted SAS as its main statistical package. “SPSS served us well with the service work,” says Dr Al-Madfai, “but with the Mathematics and Statistics degree, we’d increasingly found employers were looking for specific SAS skills. So we wanted to enhance the employability of our graduates, and that’s where SAS came in. It’s the main solution used in most of the industries and organisations our students want to work in after they finish.” He continues, “The South Wales area has a dynamic job market, with organisations including the Office for National Statistics and the Welsh Assembly having links to the University of Glamorgan, graduates will have the skills to be able to submit stronger job applications”

“That’s why we decided to use SAS in our teaching,” he adds. “It was a strategic move, to provide students with an improved chance of employability. Generally, this part of Wales has a dynamic job market, with lots of companies using SAS as their main package.” Dr Al-Madfai’s own experience of SAS dates back to using SAS® Enterprise Guide® and SAS/ETS® econometric time series software in his PhD. He continues, “The thing about SAS is that it can go to whatever level you want. If you want an easy point-and-click interface like the simpler packages, SAS gives you that. But SAS also gives you great flexibility and power. It makes programming easy yet is powerful enough to do whatever you want.” In terms of capabilities, he says SAS is “a big package that covers virtually all the areas you need. It’s also constantly updated, with new functionality, so is at the cutting edge of the science, of the discipline itself. Whenever something new comes out and you want to teach it to students, SAS has covered it.”

The first stage of the transition in 2009 involved SAS implemented into labs of between 25 and 30 computers, with testing under teaching conditions; students were provided with SAS-based coursework and tasks. Stage two in 2010 introduced SAS into the second year of the degree course, in the Statistical Inference module, with all lecture notes and data sets converted into SAS.

Going further with SAS

“Whenever I’ve requested books and other materials through the SAS Academic Program, they’ve been provided promptly,” says Dr Al-Madfai, “but I haven’t engaged with the program fully. Myself and colleagues teaching SAS have also been offered the opportunity to enroll on any SAS courses of our choice, and that’s something we’re looking forward to taking advantage of.” He is also considering the SAS® OnDemand for Academics software-as-a-service, agreeing to evaluate and provide feedback for this online delivery model for teaching and learning of data management and analytics. Moreover, Dr Al-Madfai may feature SAS in the proposed Introductory Statistics book he hopes to co-author, commissioned by a leading scientific and academic publisher. “One idea is to include a SAS section, to show SAS outputs from procedures, and to have a website in parallel that extends the remit of the examples given, covering different areas in business, finance and medical statistics, and extending the software applications. I’m thinking of creating podcasts on how to do certain things in SAS, what the outputs should look like and how to interpret them. Readers of the book could follow these through online.”

Dr Al-Madfai concludes, “We want to make continuous improvements, and working with SAS is a way to achieve that. My personal view is SAS is our strategic partner. I agree with the direction SAS is taking, and feel it’s a good partner to enhance the learning experience for our students, to enhance their employability after they graduate, and to keep providing students with the cutting-edge state-of-the art tools, skills and knowledge they need to enhance their competitive standing in the job market.”

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University of Glamorgan

Business Issue:
Enable continuous improvements in teaching of statistical and analytical methods in mathematics degree course; arm students with the latest tools and knowledge in response to increasing employer demands for SAS skills.
Solution:
SAS® software as the primary statistics and analytics teaching tool in the main mathematics degree courses; support from the SAS Academic Program.
Benefits:
Delivering state-of-the-art tools and exceptional flexibility to provide the best possible learning experience for mathematics and statistics students; enhancing the employability of graduates.

We want to make continuous improvements, and working with SAS is a way to achieve that. SAS is a good partner to enhance the learning experience for our students, enhance their employability after they graduate, and to keep providing our students with the cutting-edge tools, skills and knowledge they need to enhance their competitive standing in the job market

Dr Hasan Al-Madfai

Principal Lecturer in Statistics, Faculty of Advanced Technology

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