Mathematics Lecturer, Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science, University of South Wales
University of South Wales comes top of the class
Scoring top marks on graduate employability by equipping students with sought-after data-science skills
Home to 30,000 students, the University of South Wales is the largest university in Wales and one of the biggest in the UK. Formed in 2013 by the merger of the University of Glamorgan and the University of Wales, Newport, the institution offers 730 undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes and has over 200,000 alumni.
By training our students on SAS during their degrees, we are helping them secure sought-after jobs.
Competition for top jobs
In a labour market full of talented people, securing the best jobs is no mean feat. To give its graduates an edge over their peers, the University of South Wales aimed to equip them with precisely the skills that employers desire.
Penny Holborn, Mathematics Lecturer in the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science at the University of South Wales, begins: “As more and more companies strive to unlock the value of their data, they have encountered a huge shortfall in the number of job applicants with a high level of analytics skills. That presents a massive opportunity for universities, because if we can tailor our courses to suit employers’ needs, we can give our graduates a key advantage in the labour market.
“When we researched local employers’ needs to find out what makes their perfect candidate, we found that they weren’t just looking for graduates with experience of using analytical tools. Because many local companies perform their analyses using SAS software, specifically, they were keen to hire people with SAS skills.”
In the past, the University of South Wales provided its students with basic analytical training using conventional tools. However, the software’s limitations restricted the complexity and scope of problems that students could attempt to solve. To take its data-science teaching to the next level, the university needed a more powerful analytical platform.
Selecting a first-class solution
The university decided to deploy SAS® Enterprise Guide, which offers sophisticated data analytics controlled through a user-friendly point-and-click interface.
“I had previously come across SAS, so I already knew that it was extremely powerful yet very easy to use,” explains Penny Holborn. “I was confident that SAS would be a perfect fit for our requirements.”
Transforming the learning experience
Today, the university teaches SAS to final-year students studying for undergraduate degrees in mathematics, financial mathematics and computing mathematics. Students begin using SAS Enterprise Guide, which develops appropriate code for the task at hand. After studying the code to understand how it works, students move on to coding their own queries.
“SAS combines cutting-edge analytical capabilities with eye-opening visualisations, making it easier to spot promising avenues for further exploration,” remarks Penny Holborn. “As a result, students can take on more complex analyses and data sets.”
Getting ahead in the labour market
Lecturers encourage students to examine real-world problems, equipping them with precious skills that will translate well into a business environment.
“Since deploying SAS, we’ve been able to shift the focus from studying theory onto application-based learning, which is much more relevant in the world of work,” elaborates Penny Holborn. “Students have given us ample positive feedback on the courses, too. In fact, out of the 52 students eligible to take our final-year data-science module last year, 48 decided to do so.”
The university’s adoption of SAS is already yielding impressive results in boosting graduate employability, as many students who studied SAS have been snapped up by top employers shortly after completing their studies.
Harry Lawrence, who has secured a job at Admiral, remarks: "In my experience applying for jobs in statistics and analysis, both in the public and private sector, SAS was always mentioned on applications and discussed in interviews. Securing a job was made much easier by having the knowledge to talk about SAS with industry professionals and show that I already had skills that most people would need to be trained in."
Another student who has started at a local financial company , comments: "Employers contacted me on various occasions after university simply because I have experience with SAS. Programming the SAS language is a respected skill and gives you that extra edge over other candidates when applying for a job. As an analyst I use the SAS language every day, so being introduced to this software as an undergraduate was extremely beneficial."
Finding food for thought
Eager to keep its finger on the pulse of new data-science trends, the University of South Wales has joined the SAS Academic Group, a network for academics using SAS solutions.
“Through the SAS Academic Group, we meet other academics to discuss current courses and share ideas concerning opportunities for using SAS,” adds Penny Holborn. “The network acts as a great source of advice on which tools to use, and how to use them. SAS also organises global forums, where academics and industrialists meet to discuss the future of data science. That helps us find out which skills are at the top of employers’ wish lists.”
In the next academic year, the university plans to launch a new module focusing on data mining using SAS solutions as part of the integrated Master’s degree in Mathematics and Financial Mathematics. The aim is to engage local companies to provide problems for the students to study – honing their analytical skills in the process.
Penny Holborn concludes: “By training our students on SAS during their degrees, we are helping them secure sought-after jobs. In turn, demonstrating superior graduate employability strengthens the university’s reputation among employers and prospective students.”
To help its graduates secure the best jobs, the University of South Wales wanted to equip students with highly desirable data-science skills, making their CVs stand out from the crowd.
- Gives graduates an edge over other candidates in a competitive labour market
- Boosts student satisfaction by allowing them to focus on real-world problem-solving, rather than simply learning theory
- Enhances the university’s reputation and appeal among employers and prospective students