New Funding Call for PhD students to attend conferences

With most national and international conferences currently being held on-line due to the pandemic, SICSA is taking the opportunity to open a new funding call which will allow PhD students, currently studying in a SICSA institution, to apply for the cost of the registration fees for a virtual conference.

If there is a specific Conference you are interested in attending and, it is in line with your research you can apply for funding for the registration fees.  There is no deadline for proposals to be submitted.

For more information and details of how to apply, please see the SICSA Funding Page

Exploring the SQA NextGen project and the impact on student transitions

23 March 2021

By Debbie Meharg, Edinburgh Napier University

In February a SICSA Education event hosted by Edinburgh Napier University explored the HN Next Gen project and the implications for direct entrants into computing degrees. Bobby Elliott from SQA gave the keynote and explained that the HN qualifications in Computing were last revised in 2003, leaving them out of date, subject to grade inflation, and lacking the content to give students the 21st century skills they require.

Any changes to HNC and HND qualifications require careful consideration for articulation routes and mapping between courses. The Next Gen project follows design parameters to ensure consistency and quality across the qualifications and the new awards have a focus on Skills 4.0, including self-management, social intelligence, and innovation. The new curriculum sees the HND move to a one-year standalone course allowing for adult returners and those upskilling to start at a more suitable point on their return to education.

Bobby explained that there will be a common core and a focus on sector and industry specific skills. The new design will incorporate a reduction in the number of units and less assessment with a focus on project-based learning and holistic grading. The structure of the HND in Data Science was explored. However, the frameworks are still being finalised and pilot colleges being identified for the delivery starting in August 2021.

The breakout discussions highlighted several key points, with universities and colleges keen to see the final detail as soon as possible and worries raised over short amount of time to implement routes into university through articulation agreements. Overall, the changes were viewed as positive, with praise for the broad, updated curriculum and changes to assessment and grading.

The benefit of greater collaboration across the sector and a more collegiate approach to mapping were highlighted and it was agreed that a future event would be beneficial for all. Watch this space for further updates.





United Kingdom and Ireland Computing Education Research 2020 conference

12 January 2021

By Dr Joseph Maguire, University of Glasgow

The United Kingdom and Ireland Computing Education Research (UKICER) conference is sponsored by the Association of Computer Machinery (ACM) UK Special Interest Group in Computing Science Education (SIGCSE) chapter and is emerging as one of the leading venues nationally for researchers to meet and share advances in computing science education research. The conference attracts academics, researchers, practitioners as well as PhD students from around the world to share and discuss computing science education research.

UKICER 2020 was held virtually at the University of Glasgow in September 2020. Professor Quintin Cutts and Joseph Maguire were General and Programme Chairs for the conference. SICSA sponsored the event with 10 papers presented at the conference and published on the ACM Digital Library. Topics included programming, cyber security and cognitive concerns in computing science. Workshops were delivered on the use of video in computing science education as well as the integration of early career research academics into the UK computing science education community.  A number of posters were also presented on a number of topics, including widening participation in computing science and improving assessment.

Over 60 delegates participated in the conference from around the United Kingdom and Ireland as well as from Europe and North America. The conference proved to be an engaging and exciting event despite having to move from being physical to virtual and would not have been as successful without SICSA sponsorship. The success of the event has led to the confirmation by the UK ACM SIGCSE board that UKICER 2021 will be held at the University of Glasgow.

For more information:




SICSA Education – In the Loop

18 December 2020

By Mark Zarb, SICSA Director of Education

First of all – you’ll remember that at SICSA Conference, we had Professor Sally Fincher (Professor Emerita, University of Kent) give a talk about Educational Resilience. She then joined the Education Champions in a Panel format, taking questions from the audience.

These videos have been uploaded, and are now able for view at the following links:

These form part of the continuing videos on Education, resilience and teaching “face to face” students in an online setting due to covid-19, which you can view here:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your enthusiasm for Education – this year we had some wonderful SICSA Education events, including a very well attended workshop on addressing the Gender Balance (which led to the awesome Ada Festival), a workshop on teaching accessibility and sponsorship of UKICER, amongst others. We have an exciting programme of events coming up in 2021 – should you wish to be part of it, consider applying for Education funding here.

Thanks again for an awesome year despite all circumstances – and I look forward to a productive 2021.



2-0 for Edinburgh vs Glasgow in the SICSA Programming Challenges

25 November 2020

By Hans-Wolfgang Loidl, Heriot-Watt University

The series of SICSA Programming Challenges, started during lock-down in June 2020, is continuing
and featured a Scotland-wide, SICSA-funded challenge, called “dynamic Denning”, on Wed 21st of October.

As before, a sequence of programming tasks was posted on the OpenKattis platform which provides a huge repository of online problems, and performs automatic scoring of challenges submitted by students. As many of these platforms, it markets itself as a tool for preparing for technical interviews and honing programming skills, thus it is highly relevant for computer science students, who will be entering the job market soon.

The event attracted about 50 students and about 40 of these students submitted at least one correct solution to the challenge tasks posed. Four students in total managed to solve all six problems in the time available. Remarkably the top student only needed 102 minutes to complete all tasks, during the five hour duration of the challenge. The highest scoring student was a student from the University of Edinburgh. The second highest score was achieved by a student from the University of Glasgow. This makes it a 2-0 for Edinburgh vs Glasgow in the series of SICSA Programming Challenges. Students from at least six Scottish universities participated in this challenge.

Overall, the event was a great success, judging from the feedback the students have been giving in post-event surveys: 100% of the students answered Yes to the survey question “Would you be interested in participating in a similar challenge again?”

After running two SICSA-wide challenges, we now have an organising team from six different Scottish universities in place: Dr Hans-Wolfgang Loidl, Dr Rob Stewart (Heriot-Watt University), Dr Vesselin Velichkov (University of Edinburgh), Dr Chris Brown (University of St Andrews), Dr Jeremy Singer (University of Glasgow), Dr Carron Shankland (University of Stirling), Dr Paul Keir (University of the West of Scotland), and Dr Adam Sampson (Abertay University).

We encourage other academics to get in touch in order to grow the effort and expand the base of potential participants. We plan to build on the success of this challenge and run more SICSA-wide instances of this programming competition during this academic year, and in face of an ongoing lock-down situation to possibly grow this into a UK-wide event. Our thanks go to SICSA for funding the prize money for the winners of the event and for promoting this event.

More information on the programming challenge is available on this web site.

SICSA and ScotCHEM are coming together for a Speed Networking Fortnight

SICSA and ScotChem are coordinating a fortnight of short remote one-to-one calls between researchers to stimulate inter-disciplinary exchanges of research ideas and agendas.  Working across disciplines is notoriously difficult in ordinary circumstances, but the restrictions caused by the current pandemic have even further curtailed opportunities for chance encounters at conferences, or meetings that lead to fruitful collaborations. To address this, the aim of the Speed Networking Fortnight is to put researchers in touch with each other across disciplines to foster understanding of existing disciplinary research challenges and provide opportunities.

To minimise the impact on time, each one-to-one meetup will last as long as just 15 minutes – no longer than it would take to queue to use the coffee machine. SICSA and ScotChem will coordinate the matching of participants from across disciplines and scheduling of meeting times, as well as a follow up to document any interesting outcomes. The initiative is open to any researcher (academic, postdoc, PhD student) from either pool.

To participate, just fill out the very short application form here: .

If you have any questions or would like some more information please get in touch with Tim Storer (SICSA KE Director) and/or Alan Wiles (ScotCHEM Director of Operations)

SICSA Artificial Intelligence Research Theme…..recruiting a new Co-theme Leader

Applications are invited for any suitable member of academic staff within a SICSA Institution to co-lead the SICSA Artificial Intelligence Research Theme.

Role Purpose

SICSA is the Scottish Funding Council Research Pool in Informatics and Computer Science.  The goal of SICSA is to cohere the Scottish Informatics and Computer Science research communities to help increase critical mass and to enable cooperation in research, teaching and Knowledge Exchange.

The role of the SICSA Theme Leaders is to coordinate activities within each of the defined SICSA themes and further develop coherent communities in these areas.

Research Theme leaders are taking on increasingly public facing roles on behalf of SICSA. For example, our current AI theme leaders are part of the government strategy group developing a national AI strategy for Scotland. While another team leader is currently considering Co-chairing a large event with business here in Scotland on behalf of SICSA. Theme Leaders are called upon to help shape and direct the theme but also to provide a face and national representation for their theme area.

For more information on the role please refer to the AI Co-Theme Leader Job Descriptor.  If you would like to speak to the current Theme Leaders about the role please get in touch with Emma Hart and/or Helen Hastie

To apply, please complete the AI Co-Theme Leader application form and send to by 11 December 2020


Ada Scotland Festival: welcoming young women into computing

2 November 2020

By Ella Taylor-Smith, Edinburgh Napier University


The Ada Scotland Festival grew out of a SICSA-sponsored workshop, Addressing Gender Imbalance in Computing Science Education, organised by Dr Matthew Barr (University of Glasgow).

From this workshop, a core collaboration* emerged to create an online Festival which would:

  • welcome girls and women into computing/ tech (and address gender imbalance);
  • and start to build network of groups and organisations (partners) working in this area in Scotland.

Here it is:

Live events

Over Ada Lovelace week (13th to 20th October) the Festival and its partners hosted 14 live events:

  • Inspirational women talked about their careers in tech, and the history and future of women working in computing;
  • Interactive workshops introduced girls to creating video games and Minecraft worlds, and building their own crucial confidence;
  • Computing students and Graduate Apprentices answered questions about their work and courses.

Most of the live events were recorded and can be watched on the website.

Activities and resources

In parallel, over 30 partners created a wealth of resources and activities that can be accessed at any time, throughout the year, including:

  • Competitions – and ✨prizes✨ – for girls and women (currently: Cyber Security Challenges for primary and secondary, video competition, and the YES Digital Enterprise Challenge);
  • and videos about career paths and day-to-day jobs in tech, which provide a fascinating snapshot of contemporary jobs in digital and the diverse women that rock them.

We have been in the news

What next?

Well, we hope that the resources are useful and fun, for you, your students, and children. We think this is the beginning of Ada Scotland Festival, not the end.

Thanks to SICSA and our other sponsors (so far).

*Collaboration: Ada. Scot core team: Matt Barr and Anna Doyle (University of Glasgow), Toni Scullion (Computing Science teacher and founder of dressCode), and Ella Taylor-Smith (Edinburgh Napier University).





Computing Science Education Research at the University of St Andrews

By Dr Dharini Balasubramaniam, University of St Andrews

October 2020

The Higher Education Research Group at the School of Computer Science in the University of St Andrews was established in January 2018 with the aim of giving an identity to staff interested in higher education research and to facilitate collaboration among them. There are around 15 members of the group with diverse interests, from Computer Science education to using computer technology to improve education.

The group has hosted higher education researchers from other schools within the University as well as external speakers. A SICSA Education funded workshop on learning analytics was organised by group members during summer 2018. The group hosted a SICSA Education All-Hands meeting in autumn 2018. The research group also benefits from initiatives by the University of St Andrews to promote research in higher education. Members take part in activities and events organised by the Centre for Higher Education Research and the St Andrews Learning and Teaching Initiative at the University.

Members of the Higher Education Research Group are interested in aspects of pedagogy and educational practice such as teaching programming at entry levels, teaching at scale, technology-enhanced learning, students as co-creators, group work, project allocation and management, and assessment and feedback. Their related research interests include virtual worlds, open badges and learning analytics. In light of recent developments, group members are also interested in approaches to enhance online learning and teaching.


WeObserve invites you to its last free online course on Citizen Science from 5th October 2020

By Raquel Ajates Gonzalez

October 2020

WeObserve  a European consortium of four Citizen Observatories, is inviting you to the final run of its online course “Citizen Science Projects: How to Make Difference”. The course starts on Monday 5th October 2020 and will run for four weeks with three flexible hours of recommended study a week. It will immerse learners in how citizen science projects work and how they generate open datasets created by citizens monitoring their own environment. You can register for free here.

By the end of the course, you will become familiar with citizen science and citizen observatories. Together, we will consider the steps to set up your own citizen science project in your local or online community. We will explore open source tools for data collection and visualisation for relevant issues such as environmental challenges or disaster management. Citizen Science data can be very different from other data you may have collected or dealt with before. This is an opportunity to learn how to develop data collection protocols, train participants and consider appropriate data quality indicators.

Learning with people from all over the world on the FutureLearn platform, you will get a chance to design and model your own project and evaluate the potential of citizen science in bringing about positive change. If you took the course last year, this run will not only refresh your knowledge, but also give you the chance to discover up-to-date course material such as citizen science and global pandemics, and how to set up an Open Data Challenge. You will also get access to new open source downloadable tools. Watch the trailer for the online course here.

If you would like to know more about WeObserve activities, please visit the WeObserve website here, or follow us on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

We look forward to seeing you on the course!