Computer Sci Continues to Reshape Higher Education

Harvard is significantly boosting its computer science faculty at a time when increased demand for the major continues to reshape higher education.

The Harvard Crimson reports the college will add 12 professors. That’s a 50 percent increase.

On Thursday, the university announced a major donation from Microsoft CEO and Harvard alum Steven Ballmer. The goal, Ballmer says, is to compete with other elite universities that have recently expanded their computer science departments.

“Right now I think everybody would agree that MIT, Stanford, and Carnegie Mellon are the top places [for computer science],” Ballmer told The Crimson. “I want Harvard on that list.”

The announcement comes as computer science is among the country’s fastest-growing majors. At Harvard, it’s the fifth largest undergraduate concentration and the school says the number of students majoring in computer science has tripled over the past five years. Today, Introduction to Computer Science is the largest class offered at Harvard.

Computer science is no longer a passing fad. Even at traditionally liberal arts schools, students are itching to learn how to code. Computer science, however, wasn’t even considered a real major back in the 1960s.

Related: How Comp Sci Went From Fad to Must-Have Major

In May, MIT celebrated 50 years of computer science and On Campus caught up with MIT professor Joel Moses, a founding member of Project MAC. Project MAC marked the beginning of the formal study of computer science. Administrators were initially skeptical, and professors had to prove their worth. Today, computer science is MIT’s largest department. 

With today’s announcement, Harvard is hoping to match its neighbor in Cambridge.

Listen to our extended interview with Joel Moses:

[Cross-posted at On Campus: The WGBH News Higher Education Blog]

Kirk Carapezza

Kirk Carapezza is the lead reporter for On Campus. Kirk has reported for Wisconsin Public Radio in Madison, Wis., and Vermont Public Radio in Montpelier, Vt. He's been a writer and producer at WBUR in Boston; a teacher and coach at Nativity Preparatory School in New Bedford, Mass.; a Fenway Park tour guide; and a tourist abroad.

Kirk received his B.A. from the College of the Holy Cross and earned his M.S. from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. When he's not reporting or editing stories on campus, you can find him posting K's on the Wall at Fenway.