I love introductions by Heads of Departments or Deans. Prof Dominic Palmer-Brown extemporising on a very laconic programme.

Lancaster (Amit Chopra)

Stu Stu Studio: Learning in Software Engineering

Studio model of teaching: SE studio, Network studio, Live studio

Own dedicated studio. SPACE. Their SPACE. “students live there”; 24-hour access

Intensive hands-on engineering; reaction against “purely lecture-based teaching” (really??). Good results on students thought to be average.

Challenges: dedicated space; teaching culture; system admin culture; module design to engage students

student vs academic interest: e.g. "woo I can implement login" vs innovative ideas

some students slack off (but can't hide). Low enrollment

viable at 12-16 students. coggin.flv – sensor project. 2nd year students come up with their own brief; third-years get given projects.

Peer-assessment? no. Selection? no.

15 credits!? Wow, that's expensive

London Met (Yanguo Jing)

Improve student employability through thewow. (This is not a student-run software house). Not linked to coursework / assessment. Commercial IT agency.

  • why was it started? engage with industry, use HEIF money, develop student employability. (HEIF = Higher Education Innovation Fund)
  • has it delievered? Surprises? High-profile clients, student engagement, curriculum needs an update
  • challenges: business world, client expectations, student availability, project management, always have a plan B
  • student/client response: student response positive on experience.
  • impact on local competition: hard to quantify. Some impact, but small number of clients
  • costs: university overhead, staff time, student/graduate wage
  • remainng problems: client relationship, students' readiness for comercial projects, technical/professional skills; staff resources; consultancy fee for staff
  • profitable: yes. Profit divided between faculty and central university (loss is purely on faculty)
  • e.g. roomfortea (social housing); rockfig (social learning)

looks like a creative/digital agency to me

student services can handle international student working issue.

Sheffield Hallam (Andrew Strafton)

Group software development project: 2nd year core module. pre-placement (80-90% students do placements). No extra cost / no profits. Real clients. Generally happy clients.

Intensive week: 9-5, 5 days. Handing responsibility to students (scary but doesn't force structure on students). Salable skills with no lectures.

Good: advisers, no team leader; student-supplied hosting; labs on 3rd floor; demonstration with clients; prizes; students chose project; every morning group meed; students arranged daily client meetings; whiteboards not cleaned for a week

Bad: client risk; client connection breakdown; clients ignored advice to double-up groups; free hosting unreliable; agile/tdd not followed; too many marks for reports; limited access to Macs; lack of preparation => fail

Who owns the copyright to the software? Encouraged to hand over copyright to the client. Further IP discussion later

Greenwich (Elaine Major)

GWizards (“our initiative”). Sandwich optional, students not engaging. Work experience to current students. Need senior staff on board. Challenges: what can we do within University policies/procedures (legal, finance, etc). Loads of brick walls. GWizards a voluntary project, working with local charities on best-effort basis.

Students come through word-of-mouth; unadvertised even within department. Only small numbers at a time (total 60 students over last two years). One software developer in-house. Surprised at offers for commercial work: had to turn them down.

Remaining problems: mostly university processes/procedures. Difficult to retain volunteers. Marketing department has the Apple Store login. OH MY GOD. POSSIBLY THE WORST THING EVER.

Post-study work visa scheme ending means international students can't stay and give the benefit of their experience.

Aberdeen (Bruce Scharlau)

Started ASF to increase student experience: more than working in cafés and supermarkets. Has helped students. How to engage staff?

Student and client response less than expected. Ruby, rails, git in 2nd year. Local companies happy: more like a stepping stone.

LET'S GET THE CONTRACT FROM THIS PERSON. Surplus for contingency, sponsor events. Huh. Actually a use for a zero-hour contract.

@scharlau. Senior teaching fellow.

Ideas are 10 a penny.

Ethics approval / process.

Worcester (Liz Coulter-Smith)

WBS media lab

Not worth attaching to modules. Lab for students to work on “live” client projects, with mentoring when needed

Models of good practice from US / Australia. Get them out of Tesco.

Worcester Business School: seed funding £10k, space, support staff

Internal funding bids: £3500 (projects in sustainability, social enterprise, students as partners)

Challenges: space. SPACE. HR. ARGH. Falling between cracks (teaching vs commercial). Information services (JANet and commercial activity)

@lizcoultersmith . Basecamp

UCL (Graham Roberts)

Students should develop software (/hardware) for an external client or organization). Core in the curriculum. 1st/2nd-year students: 90 students per year (mobile app / diverse range); organized with external companies. Generalist MSc app development; MSc SE big group project (effectively as whole company). Summer work in City, Docklands or tech company.

SSIG (Student Special-Interest Group); run by students. e.g. Robotics, Schools outreach, 3d graphics, security, quant trading, girls in CS, Cloud, HCI.

Funding. No initial funding; found projects with specific need. Paid for by curriculum review. £25k-£50k to support this: paying for hardware; travel, etc. Build collaborative relationships with companies.

Expanding from just CS to EE too, + Engineering Faculty. Plus Management Science is part of Engineering faculty. Ha ha ha.

Still not saying that it's displaced local business

Are students paid? Murky story. Accounting system does allow money to come in to dept and then reward students. Hope is to develop standard charging model.

how effective is it? problem-based learning, challenge, motivation, professionalism, publication of software, Micro-Software Engineering Cycle, team-building.

Next level. UCL Advances (entrepreneurship, student ideas -> business), UCL Business (tech transfer).

Surprises: resource-intensive. 2-3 people full time managing relationships (for 150 students per year?). Legal/IP issues

Other issues: students move on; who takes over? Who controls an app store account (and who gets the money?) Branding and reputation.

Students need support: experience running business. Finding the right people. Tangible rewards (e.g. assessment)

Most people in the room started crying when Graham described the level of institutional support.

Sheffield (Chris Murray)

Epigensys (spinout) from 1993. 45-credit module (18hr/wk x 24weeks)

until 2007: too successful. Sued by local businessman over project outcome)

100% University owned, £10k capital, incorporates Genesys solutions. HR/Finance/Legal into the company. 8 staff (all graduates) for training/mentoring/sysadmin.

Values! YES! Practitioner led; Current Practices; Trust students; Honest about ambitions; Social Enterprise.

Startup Weekend Sheffield + student scholarships

Challenges: no funding; litigation; variety / number of students; status within the University. “We're wholly owned by the University; we can just work around most of the rules”


Lego! “your hands know what you're building before your brain does”, but I think that's total claptrap. Fun to build towers, though; maybe breaking the ice was the important bit.

More normal “brainstorming” session: generic questions “where do we want to be?”/“what's holding us back”


Everywhere and their dog is doing "creative agency" type software houses. Could we do a data mining / data visualization consultancy? CC students for viz + MSc Data Science for data chops. Mastodon-C + Information is beautiful?

(related: a paper at ELS describing Middlesex's first-year CS curriculum)

student-run software houses