IBM and Universities Team Up to Close a 'Big Data' Skills Gap

August 14, 2013

IBM is expanding its push to encourage the study of "big data" through a brace of new partnerships with prominent universities and a new round of grants to support data-analytics pursuits in academe, the company announced on Wednesday.

Georgetown University, George Washington University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Northwestern University are among the nine institutions and higher-education agencies worldwide that will introduce new curricula developed in partnership with the computer company.

George Washington, Rensselaer, Ireland's Dublin City University, and the National University of Singapore are each introducing new master's degrees with a big-data emphasis. The other participating institutions—the University of Missouri, India's Mother Teresa Women's University, and universities overseen by the Philippines Commission on Higher Education—are introducing graduate and undergraduate courses.

The terms of the partnerships vary, but IBM typically offers some combination of technology, expertise, and financial support.

The universities join more than 1,000 other institutions with which IBM has created partnerships in order to boost the number of students able to grapple with the floods of data currently redefining how things are done in business, science, and other fields.

"People really aren't prepared for the exponential volume of this data," said James C. Spohrer, director of global university programs for IBM. The company's partnerships with universities are designed to narrow "the tremendous skills gap for people to learn the tools and processes" for crunching big data in the near future, he said.

In addition to the new partnerships, IBM also announced a new set of winners of its periodic Big Data and Analytics Faculty Awards. Fourteen professors are to be awarded grants of $10,000 each for their work in big-data instruction or research.