The Canadian Information Processing Society (CIPS) has certified St. Francis Xavier University’s Bachelor of Information Science program as an accredited institution.
The program is only the third to receive such CIPS accreditation in the country. According to CIPS’ Professional Standards Manager Gina van Dalen, receiving the accreditation is a voluntary process. While the process is confidential, she was able to disclose that some universities have applied and been rejected. A panel of industry experts and academic representatives called the Information Systems and Technology Accreditation Council reviews the applications, and interviews a handful of professors, students, and alumni about the program to discern its merits and real-world value. There are a handful of schools awaiting accreditation at this time, she said.
St. Francis Xavier’s program is provided through the Schwartz School of Business and Information Systems, which concentrates on giving students a decent business background to complement their technology studies.
It’s not a very common program—there are a bunch of universities that have had their computer science programs certified by CIPS via its Computer Science Accrediation Committee. Here, accreditation lends more credence to the program, said the director of the Schwartz School of Business and Information Systems, Leo Gallant.
“There’s not a large number of BIS programs, so this will say to those outside that it meets the standard requirements set by information technology professionals,” he said.
But the BIS program has a secret weapon. “The IT sector is suffering the same as any other in needing to identify what attracts people to the field. But (this program) is under the business school, so they’re really listening to what the industry is looking for—a solid IT foundation, but someone who can tackle the business aspects, too. And when it comes to CIPS’ ISP designation, we want accredited schools to provide a solid foundation to grow on,” said Chris Kendrick, the vice-president of CIPS Nova Scotia.
Said Gallant: “There’s a real demand for business skills —this program is kind of between the two.”
Accreditation can act as a lure in other ways, too. Said Kendrick: “With universities, there’s been a supply-and-demand shift. There used to be a great demand and limited supply, but now that there’s less going in, there’s more competition for students. Schools are pursuing accreditation more, as they see it as a differentiator.”
A nationally-accepted certification can help regionally, too, said Gallant. “The accreditation is the same across the country—accreditation is as good here as it is in any other province.”
But Kendrick admitted that this can be challenging to get across to 18- and 19-year-olds who might not care about professional designations, and suggests that awareness programs would be a good idea. “We need to market this better—(when it comes to) getting into their minds, it’s a struggle,” he said.