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Microsoft Invests in the University of Waterloo 785

saforrest writes "Say goodbye to independent academia. In a presentation by Microsoft on Wednesday at the University of Waterloo, a new joint initiative was announced which involves the addition of a mandatory course on C# for all electrical and computer engineers. 'Completion of this course will be mandatory for students entering the E&CE program.'" Microsoft's press release is available.
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Microsoft Invests in the University of Waterloo

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  • I think the real travesty here is that any corporation could get the university to run a mandatory course about thier product. Where's the academic integrity?
    • by Succa ( 108618 )
      Waterloo has no academic integrity. As someone who just graduated from UW's Comp Sci program two weeks ago, I can tell you that UW's once-esteemed CS program is starting to resemble a diploma factory. The university admins have increased their quota for industry-pandering by 1000% since I first joined the school. All of a sudden, perfectly good courses started getting tainted by the touch of Java (the AI course comes to mind, switching to Java because it "looks better on a resume" than Scheme), phasing out theory courses, and generally eliminating academic mainstays like Lisp, ML, and the like. And now C#? I'd heard this rumour quite some time ago, and I feared it would come true. Luckily it's only the Comp/Elec Eng program (which tends to focus on industry more than theory) affected; were MS forcing C# on Comp Sci students, the program would be reduced to a joke. I just hope my newly acquired degree doesn't become completely worthless in the next few years.
    • Also concerned about this is the UW Federation Of Students [www.feds.ca]. See their official release (warning, PDF) here [www.feds.ca].

      (.RTF version [www.feds.ca])
  • Hrm... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Now the phrase "school sucks" is no longer a subjective comment.
  • Nooooooo! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by __aaaaxm1522 ( 121860 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:01PM (#4073182)
    *sigh* I had hoped that the mathematics & Comp Sci department at U of W knew better. But who am I kidding? When I went there, we used to joke about how U of W's secondary campus was located in Redmond - given the large # of UW CompSci co-ops and graduates that worked there.

    Ah well, at least my old Physics department is underfunded (wait... RIM is investing $150 million in a new Physics research institute @ the U of Waterloo? DOH!)

    Waterloo always had close ties with industry. Now they appear to have an umbilical cord.
    • Re:Nooooooo! (Score:5, Informative)

      by rruvin ( 583160 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:12PM (#4073279)
      The Electrical and Computer Engineering program has nothing to do with the Faculty of Mathematics or the Computer Science program. It is a part of the Faculty of Engineering.

      No such requirements are present in the Computer Science program.

    • Re:Nooooooo! (Score:2, Insightful)

      by SerpentMage ( 13390 )
      I know how you feel. I graduated from the Engineering faculty.

      What makes me sad is that they are forcing a mandatory course of C#. It is not that I do not like C# because I do. What makes me sad is that now students will HAVE to get specific tools and environments. Those that like other environments will be shafted. Ok there is C# on LINUX, but lets be real, will you be able to get graded on projects created on UNIX, that do not have an easy to open project folder? Not likely...

      When we learned programming we did it with languages that showed specific concepts and were neutral. I guess those days are gone!
    • Not to take M$'s side or anything, but at least they're teaching something RELEVANT now. When I went there, they were inflicting MODULA-3 on us. (And Pascal.. but then, I like Pascal)
      • Relevant to what? How much production code out there uses C#? How many people will still be programming in C# 20 years from now?

        Learning languages currently being marketed by corporations is stupidly shortsighted. I'd about exepct this from a 2-year tech school, maybe, but a university?

        "Hey kids! This semester, we'll learn about object oriented programming! Open your C# manual to page..."

        "Hey kids! This semester, we'll learn about data structures! Open your C# manual to page..."

        "Hey kids! This semester, we'll learn about algorithms! Open your C# manual to page..."

        "Hey kids! This semester, we'll learn about ethics! Open your C# manual to page..."

        • Learning languages currently being marketed by corporations is stupidly shortsighted.

          But as with a lot of languages, using C# one can teach a student about:

          • Basic programming constructs
          • OOP and Design
          • Memory and Datatypes on a modern (Abstract Stack Machine) platform
          • Program design, conventions, etc.
          • Event driven programming
          • Multithreaded programming
          • UI development and design.
          • Etc.

          This isn't ASP, it's a full blown modern language. Would Java (or another language) be better for the task? Maybe, maybe not. Nevertheless, this has nothing to do with schools teaching the student's a trade.
      • Teaching any programming language is useful as long as you don't focus on the language but the technique.
    • Sorry, my mistake - fingers were flying too quickly ... yes, having studied at Waterloo, I am aware that Comp Eng and Comp Sci are two different beasts... So it seems that at least Waterloo's Math faculty has the sense to avoid this sort of corporate entrapment.
    • by HotNeedleOfInquiry ( 598897 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:27PM (#4073380)
      "Waterloo always had close ties with industry. Now they appear to have an umbilical cord." Sounds more like a dick up their butt to me...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:01PM (#4073184)
    An intro CS course with C# was apparently so bad that they switched back to using Java at my university...God knows why they tried it out in the first place.
    • Really? Care to explain why? C# is JAVA on steroids. Why would it crash and burn. I've been using C# for a month now and I see it as an elegant language already. Just like JAVA it is pure OO, it is strongly typed and quick (not as in C++ but quicker than JAVA), supports persistent native compiles and has no pointers (unless using unsafe marked code) and it has garbage collection.

      So I ask you; why did it crash and burn? Apart from the obviously ties to M$, the language is a dream... I've written a little multiplayer nethack clone with it already and I must say, I'm impressed. JAVA has a little way before it can compete on features with C#/.NET... Maybe JAVA 3 if Sun ever release it? Ideas?
  • by spookysuicide ( 560912 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:02PM (#4073190) Homepage

    Sure those are the comp sci requirements, but what are the biz school requirements?

    The monopoly corporation as a friend to free market economics 101?

    any other microsoft required classes you can think of?

  • I went to school at JMU and the NSA actually has a small office there. I know more than a 'few' people who have been recruited directly out of there into the black world. They funded some of the CS and ISAT dept. there and had some core curriculum additions made. I certainly dont remember there being two Algorithim Development classes being required there before they showed up.

    This may be the first time that Microsoft has funded a school but it is definitely not the first time that a gov't entity or corporation has.
  • by selectspec ( 74651 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:06PM (#4073214)
    When I connected to the site:

    Warning: Too many connections in /home/uws/websites/uwstudent.org/lib/dbconnect.php on line 2

    Warning: MySQL Connection Failed: Too many connections in /home/uws/websites/uwstudent.org/lib/dbconnect.php on line 2

    could not connect to database
  • I think the move toward corporate education at the university level is a good one. Perhaps now that the people being fed the lies are at a cognitive level where they can see through it, they'll fight back. The little ones have been handed this kind of crap [state.il.us] for years.
    • When I went to university, students were QUITE vocal about what they hated. Fuck Java, fuck Microsoft, fuck Visual Studio, fuck assembley, fuck linux, fuck makefiles, fuck everything.

      MS is never going to win any mind share, but they still have the upper hand ... Because every last person I heard say "Fuck Microsoft" didn't turn down a job offer doing development on MS platforms/compilers -- if an offer was made.

      Having principles can be damn expensive

  • Well microsoft will do what it can to have it's new programs and languages adopted. It's apon the univerisities to make the desiscions which keep them impartial institutions for learning. Perhaps the university should consider if the funding donation is enough to compromise their proported impartiality.

    -- Greg
  • so what? (Score:2, Troll)

    by Roadmaster ( 96317 )
    How does it work in college? some subjects you enjoy, some others you don't like but you know they'll be useful, and some others you just loathe, but you have to complete them in order to graduate.

    So what if they have to learn another programming language. I once had a full course on Prolog, which I hated, but I went through it, passed, and then forgot completely about Prolog.

    This seems to me like just it. Pass the course on C#, maybe with the help of some nearby geek, for those who don't like programming too much, and then go on with your life. It's not like C# will be the only language they'll ever use after that.

    Unless, of course, it's the ONLY mandatory programming course they have?
    • Unless, of course, it's the ONLY mandatory programming course they have?

      No, of course it isn't. It's one of several. The point, and the problem, is that this is curriculum set by industry members. And not just any industry members, but a convicted monopoly, that has been known to weasle in and out of things before.

      It's a compromise of academic integrity.

  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:07PM (#4073232) Homepage
    It seems to me that the big at-fault party here is the University.

    The fact that this University is willing to sacrifice any sort of appearence of propriety in order to squeeze a few bucks out of Microsoft is as pathetic and outragous as if they were to let the parents of poorly-performing students buy their way in with large cash donations.

    Of course, the latter example happens all the time, but at least they don't brag about it in press releases.

    Anyhow, it seems to me a horrible idea to set this sort of prescident. What's next? Coke gives a few bucks to the football team and suddenly all students have to undergo a session about the crisp, refreshing taste of Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite? The music industry buys the U a building and, next thing you know, all students are required to buy $300 of Britney and N'Sync albums for their music appreciation courses?

    Universities should be about education, not indoctrination. Unless these are the best languages for teaching the foundations of computer programming (and they are not), they shouldn't be required.

    • The football team won't be entering any classes on Coke, they'll just be required to wear coca cola memorabelia around campus and the logo will end up on the sleeves of the jersey's right under the Nike or Reebok logo. A slightly differant way of selling your students to corporations.
    • by locust ( 6639 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:23PM (#4073355)
      No the people at fault are the provincial government of Ontario, and the people of Ontario. The University of Waterloo is a government funded institution. Over the last 5 years the government has slashed education spending so that people in the suburbs (905) could get thier tax cuts, while balancing the budget. The people of ontario elected these people twice. Its gotten so bad in the school boards that auditors have recommended to the department of education that the province take over three (elected) boards (ottawa, toronto, and hamilton (? not sure about hamilton)) because the members of those boards refuse to implement any further province mandated budget cuts.


      • Oh, so you're saying that Ontario is going to end up like Arkansas, where people are so blinded by taxes that they doom their children to shitty education and $20k/year menial jobs?

        By the by, California is headed in this direction, too. Apparently people here think that quality education is free, and that it's just the greedy teachers (who can't afford to live here anyhow) who would be taking their money otherwise. Oh well, when I have kids I should be able to afford to send them to an expensive private school.

    • I knew it was all over for academia when the University of Cambridge pimped out its reputation in return for dollars from Gates.

      I'm still angry about it. Every time I get a fundraising letter, I rip it up and trash it. If Maurice Wilkes wants more money for the Computer Lab he can bend over and kiss Bill Gates' butt some more, 'cause he's not getting anything from me for the William Gates Laboratory for Computer Science.

      I mean, what next? The Arthur Andersen Mathematics Building? The Rupert Murdoch School of Journalism? The Ken Lay MBA Program?
    • by xixax ( 44677 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:15PM (#4073933)
      If you had been watching Friend Computer [cme.org] you would realise that strategic alliances [maquilasolidarity.org] can greatly educate students so that they are aware of products that may benefit them as adults. Maybe you are upset because you thirsty? Maybe a refreshing drink [wired.com] will help?


  • Years ago, I read that Microsoft invests more in Waterloo than in any other university in North America.

    Waterloo is the top comp sci school in Canada (no, I went to the University of Victoria, so pretty objective), and in the top 5 in North America.

    Bummer that they've sold out.
  • by tutal ( 512222 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:09PM (#4073243)
    There is a reason why serious academic institutions do not overwhelmingly adapt Microsoft. Primarily it is the cost both in dollars and also in loss of academic freedom that comes with the restrictive licensing that comes with many proprietary applications. One of the founding tennants of higher education is that information should be freely and intensely pursued. Sure some "MIS" programs may just be an advanced MCSE/CCNA course, but most real computer science programs could not afford such a narrow scope. CS by definition is much more broad than software developement, MIS, EE, or networking; rather it is the culmination of all of the above with other studies mixed in.

    Any CS program that concentrates too heavily on one thing (ie programming in C# or Java for that matter) really short changes its students and limits the potential that they can achieve. A much more broad approach, while not churning out top notch Java developers, produces excellent problem solvers who are able to quickly learn and adapt to the ever-changing technology world. Looking back on my undergrad experience I think that playing around on the HP-UX and AT&T UNIX (R) box helped me break out of the mold and learn much more effectively.
  • This is nothing new. For quite some time, every CS Freshman at UIUC was issued a free copy of MS Visual Studio.

    Of course, it happened my Sophmore year, so I was not gifted with the freebies. Of course, I did get a free copy of the one true version of Windows (Win2k) from MS for free later, so I'm no more bitter than I usually am.
    • Man, I'm glad they weren't doing that when I was a student there. I would've been pissed. I thought it was bad I had to keep buying books by Reingold for my classes. Come to think of it, I never had single class which involved anything Microsoft. But that was '89-'93 when Redmond hadn't even figured out that a TCP/IP stack was a good idea.
  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by captain_craptacular ( 580116 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:10PM (#4073255)
    If the CS department is worth a 1/2 a crap it doesn't really matter what language[s] they teach the classes in. The students should come away with a good solid foundation of general programming knowledge. Languages come and go, if a CS grad needs to know one they should be able to buy the reference and compare to their base of knowledge. Note: I'm not saying CS grads should be guru's in whatever language they choose after a day, but they should be able to get by.
    • Well, the CS department at Waterloo is definitely worthwhile. They emphasize the fact that languages are not what is needed to be learned, but rather the concepts of computer science. Hell, we've programmed our own compilers in second year (Nothing great, but working).

      On the other hand, the Engineering dept. (which is the one that is being forced to take these courses) is more dependent on working knowledge. Which means knowing the languages intricately over just knowing the concepts behind programming languages.

      E&CE IMHO is more an applied CS course then anything else. Thus, MS purchased the right dept. when they pulled this fast one. And at Waterloo, the engineering students would never do anything uncorporate so they'll probably just bend over and...

      This is why I am glad I am a honours pure math major. :-)
    • Note: I'm not saying CS grads should be guru's in whatever language they choose after a day, but they should be able to get by

      too true... a professor of mine told us the first day of class that by the end of the semester, all we would need to be semi-productive (note: he said semi-productive, not necessarily efficient) in any language was the syntax for three structures: a loop, an assignment, and a conditional. I would say that's been my experience so far, though i would augment that with the caveat that to really produce anything worthwhile, one would have to know how to use a function library. so make that 4 things.
    • Re:So? (Score:4, Funny)

      by Salsaman ( 141471 ) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @04:56AM (#4075401) Homepage
      Yeah but how are the students gonna learn things like memory management and hardware control if they are using a managed, abstracted language like C# ?

      For the same reason, if I were to pick a single language to be taught to engineers, I wouldn't recommend teaching Java either.

      You should start with something like C that teaches the fundamentals, then when you know how a computer *really* works, you can move on to a higher level language like C# or Java.

  • Is this a suprise? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Herkum01 ( 592704 )

    Community Colleges that have courses available, are very PRO-Microsoft. The Community College I am going to has,

    1. Windows Server XP Administration
    2. Windows Active Directory
    3. Programming in VB
    4. Programming in C#
    5. Programming for .NET
    6. Introduction to Computers/MS Office
    7. Database Programming and Administration/MS Access
    8. Networking on a MS Network

    The rare Linux, or C++, or C class is taught at night and there tends to only be one class. It is more a matter of Microsoft taking over all computer learning and other stuff is just a set of geeky computer products.

    • Well, community colleges aren't exactly performing their intended function (that is, training people for jobs rather than imparting higher-level sciences). Universities, by and large, turn out the functionally trained people, so the community colleges are left with the people who would otherwise be rebuilding engines (not that there's anything wrong with that).
  • by Infonaut ( 96956 ) <infonaut@gmail.com> on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:11PM (#4073262) Homepage Journal
    I can see them all scratching their heads.

    Jane: "Darn it, Bob, I just don't understand. No matter how many times we ask people, 'Where do you want to go today?', they still seem to think of us as a big, bullying monopolist."

    Bob: "Well, Jane, maybe we should just change the message. Perhaps if we say, 'Where do you really want to go today?', people will respond better!"

    The guy in the corner from developer marketing meekly raises his hand. "Uh, guys, perhaps if we didn't put out press releases crowing about our ability to buy out universities, we wouldn't be perceived as bullies."

    Jane: "Bob, I think your proposal is right on the money!"

    Bob: "Hey, that's why they pay us the big bucks, right?"

  • by prostoalex ( 308614 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:12PM (#4073278) Homepage Journal
    Edsger W. Dijkstra wrote a 3-page letter How "they" try to corrupt "us" [utexas.edu] [PDF] in reply to a certain letter from a colleague of his, where he mentioned that Microsoft would donate money for graduate fellowships if school trained WinNT programmers. The piece is not anti-Microsoft, it's just about industry-academia interconnections.
  • By Ryan Chen-Wing on Wednesday, August 14, 2002 at 12:33 p.m.

    MS Ca Pres Clegg and Dr. Dave sign agreement At 10:00 today Microsoft Canada Co. President Frank Clegg announced $2.3 million funding that will facilitate three projects in the areas of academic research, education solutions, and curriculum integration. UW President David Johnston, UW's Director of ICR Vic DiCiccio, and MS Canada's Director of Education Sector George Kyriakis spoke as part of the announcement.

    The aim of the research project is to develop equation recognition for new Tablet PCs that, in addition to having the functionality of laptops, have a screen which is touch sensitive to styli.

    Clegg said that Tablet PCs are set to be released 7 November this year. He said he couldn't say for sure what the retail price will, "It would be great if we could get it down to the price of of a regular laptop."

    Clegg and Dr. Dave discussing the Tablet PC The education solutions project will allow students to access lab equipment and simulators. A press release says that 8,000 course students in E&CE will benefit from this.

    Under curriculum integration, first-choice applicants to UW's E&CE program will be allowed to take a new pre-university programming course in C#, E&CE 050. Completion of this course will be mandatory for students entering the E&CE program. C# is a new programming language developed by Microsoft.

    The existing course E&CE 150, an introductory course to programming, will change from using C++ to C#.

    DiCiccio commented on changing curriculum under the agreement, "E&CE weighed all the aspects of it and was comfortable with the change...UW is really sensitive to curriculum decisions it makes." He also joked, "$2.3 million isn't enough to sacrifice curriculum."

    DiCiccio, Johnston, Clegg and Kyriakis At the end of the press conference, Clegg and President Johnston signed the agreement using an Acer Tablet PC. The announcement was made at UW in the Davis Centre's ICR Corporate Partner Lounge, which is also known as the fishbowl or the wine-and-cheese lounge. About 100 people attended.

    The funding is part of the Microsoft Canada Academic Innovation Alliance, a $10 million dollar fund administered over five years that will accept proposals from acredited universities. A press release describes the four categories of the fund, academic research, education solutions, curriculum integration and industry outreach.

    Kyriakis said, "We believe we should create ties between the business community and the academic community to ensure that innovation happens into the future." He added, "What we're doing at Waterloo is just fantastic."

    All projects under the alliance will incorporate Microsoft technology. Clegg said, "We think that is the value that we provide."

    Microsoft Canada President Frank Clegg has agreed to answer the 10 best questions posed by uws readers about the Microsoft Canada Academic Innovation Alliance, and its impact at UW. So, post your questions. uws editors will select the 10 best and send them to Mr. Clegg, then post his responses.
  • Old Hat Distribution (Score:3, Informative)

    by Mittermeyer ( 195358 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:21PM (#4073332) Homepage
    Guys, this is an ancient practice dating from when IBM and alums would give away mainframes for market share and also writeoffs, all the way through to Apples in the classrooms to hook the little monsters on GUIs. This is so old hat, it's just a knee-jerk reaction story. Move along, nothing new to see here.
  • I'll worry when the University makes the C# class mandatory for English majors.
  • The myth of Waterloo (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AdamBa ( 64128 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:32PM (#4073411) Homepage
    OK, just have to weigh in with my opinion on the exalted status of Waterloo within Microsoft. What explains Microsoft's fascination with Waterloo graduates? Read on (hint: it has to do with the interaction between how Waterloo does it co-op program, and how Microsoft does its interviews).

    [This is an excerpt from chapter 2 [iuniverse.com] of my book [proudlyserving.com].]

    "Waterloo is considered the premier engineering school in Canada, and is most famous for its co-op program, in which students alternate school trimesters with work trimesters for five years. By the time they graduate, students have accumulated six different four-month work assignments. Some students wind up spending three or four of these co-op terms as Microsoft interns and then hire on full-time when they graduate. "Co-op" and "intern" mean the same thing in this case--one is the Waterloo term and one is the Microsoft term--but because of how the Waterloo schedule works, Waterloo co-ops will show up for Microsoft internships not only during the summer, but also from January to April and September to December.

    Waterloo students have a reputation at Microsoft for being the crème de la crème among interns. In fact, for a while Waterloo interns were given special email addresses. While interns from all other schools had email addresses that started with "t-" (to visually distinguish them from full-time employees), Waterloo interns were given the unique prefix "w-". In the world of Microsoft that was high status indeed. Having grown up in Canada and knowing many people who went to Waterloo, I will state that there is nothing particularly magical about Waterloo students. Waterloo certainly does attract some of the best engineering students from all across Canada, but the admission standards are unquestionably lower than at the Ivy League universities, MIT and other top U.S. schools. Waterloo does a fine job of educating its students, but the curriculum is the same standard engineering courses offered elsewhere.

    Despite this, Microsoft will happily turn down honors graduates from top U.S. schools, while drooling over Waterloo students. Why is this? It is because of the co-op program. But what is it about the co-op program? First of all, let's separate the students who did co-op terms at Microsoft, and lump them together with students from other universities who did internships at Microsoft. Those students are treated differently from others interviewing--Microsoft does recognize previous work experience at Microsoft as a valid input to the hiring process. One of the main goals of the whole internship program is to conduct extended, real-world evaluations for future full-time employment. If you have worked as an intern at Microsoft in the past and gotten good reviews from your boss, that is considered prima facie evidence that you will do well as a full-time employee and will factor into your interview after college. In fact it may become harder and harder for others to get full-time jobs at Microsoft, because hiring former interns carries so much less uncertainty.

    But what about the students who have not interned at Microsoft before? Microsoft interviewers love to hear about specific tasks that were worked on by the candidate, with clear goals and results. Waterloo co-op jobs are great for this, so they give the students much more to talk about during interviews. This gives the Waterloo students a huge advantage over those from other schools, without indicating that they are likely to do any better once they are hired. The real ability they have is the ability to interview well at Microsoft.

    I once asked a former Microsoft recruiter what she thought about Waterloo. Her first instinctive reaction was "a top school for technical candidates." But after thinking about it for a bit, she commented, "Outside of Microsoft, I've never heard of Waterloo."

    Microsoft used to have a very bad attitude towards universities in general, viewing them merely as (imperfect) training grounds for students. Graduate degrees, with the exception of MBAs, were viewed as a waste of time. One senior manager, discussing recruiting students who were considering graduate school instead of Microsoft, once said, "We fully know how bogus [graduate school] is." This has improved recently (Microsoft now gives grants to schools without trying to dictate exactly what the money will be used for), but the bias against theoretical work and in favor of applied work still remains. Trying to figure out the relevance of a school project during an interview is hard--it is too dissimilar from the work done at Microsoft. Much easier to discuss co-op terms with a Waterloo candidate, and much less risk to recommend "hire" on one. So the myth of Waterloo persists."

    - adam
    • by Succa ( 108618 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @07:59PM (#4073588) Homepage
      Excellent. That's exactly how I've always felt about UW students. They're nothing special. In fact, I'm hard-pressed to think of a single famous UW grad. Not famous in the sense that they started a business, or that they've done well fiscally for themselves. I mean famous. A household name. A Dijkstra or a Stallman. I can't think of any, can you?

      After being surrounded by innumerable UW students in the last 5 years, I'm more than thrilled to see their self-congratulatory egos shattered by the hammer of reality. There's a common fallacy among UW CS/CE/EE students that goes like this:

      1. School X is good
      2: I go to school X
      3. Therefore, I am good.

      But many of the UW grads I've worked with don't know their heads from their asses. Ask anyone who has ever TA'd CS 354 (the third-year Operating Systems class), and who has had students ask them what a heap is, for example. And yet, they'll strut around school, thinking about how companies will stumble over each other in offering them cushy jobs with huge salaries, free Odwalla, etc.
      • by mikec ( 7785 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:54PM (#4074360)
        Ian Goldberg. I had the entertaining job of teaching second-year programming to him. He answered questions practically before I finished asking them. I eventually had to limit him to, like, three answers per lecture.
      • by btempleton ( 149110 ) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @02:36AM (#4075090) Homepage
        How many people are as famous as Dijkstra or Stallman? (Not that my mother would know either of their names!)

        And how many famous poeple do you know the alma mater of?

        A lot of guys from my time at U of Waterloo have done stuff to get noticed. People like Mark Tilden get written about. Ever heard of RIM? Built almost entirely by UW people, and I know their names and went to school with many of 'em, so you might not.

        Some for the people who founded Mortis Kern, who were also the people who wrote Coherent, pretty well known in Unix circles.

        Know Tom Duff and Bill Reeves? They're pretty famous in computer graphics circles. You see their names on the credits or a lot of movies from ILM and PIXAR. Late 70s waterloo folks again.

        Walter Banks, one of the founders of Byte magazine? Scott Vanstone, pioneer in eliptic curve cryptography. (he taught me crypto.) And as the article suggests, though MS doesn't make its programmers into stars, a ton of Microsoft's code is from UW grads.

        And you know, I'm not as famous as Stallman but I'm not that unknown myself in the online world.

        And this is just the guys from my time around 1980. Lots of other folks after us went on to great things, but I don't necessarily know what school they went to.

        Of course, UW is a young school, just coming up on 45 years of age. It got famous for WATFOR when it was only 10 years old. It takes a lot of time and reputation to get to the level of those other schools.

        Is it the best school in the world? Who knows, but I know when I started hiring people years later, few I found from various U.S. schools were as good as the friends I had who were the best from Waterloo.
    • by Stu Charlton ( 1311 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:32PM (#4074278) Homepage
      (Disclaimer: I'm a former Waterloo CS student. Left for my career without graduating around the beginning the dot-com bubble, still employed, no regrets.)

      I agree with your assessment that there's a mythos behind UW students that seems to be carried among other companies as well, particularily in professional service firms, whether smaller ones or larger (like Accenture). But this mythos isn't entirely without basis.

      I would generalize your observation to include my own experiences interviewing and working with UW co-ops and graduates: many UW students often *do* interview better than most other graduates and/or interns. And they often do generate better-than-average results. Over the past 2 companies I've worked for on the U.S. west coast and the east coast -- management fell in love with UW students.

      I would attribute this to what some might find surprising: many CS and Eng students at UW have very good communication skills relative to their peers in other schools. The co-op program requires them to be good, since they have to work in between heads-down course work. Naturally every class has legendary high-mark/anti-social students, but they wind up being professors anyway *grin*.

      A secondary reason for UW student's success at Microsoft and PSFs is that UW tends to hammer programming skills into CS students, even if it kills them (as anyone who's taken Operating Systems will attest to).

      Being relatively professional speakers, the best UW co-ops are usually both confident & technically savvy enough to be placed on the front-lines to do real work -- whether in front of a client for a contract, or @ Microsoft with the culture of debating ideas.

      Usually the UW co-ops and/or graduates I have known have been better than many full-time employees at client sites. But not perfect. I find UW grads, like all grads, have a lot of learning to do in placing systems work in business context. There's also a general lack of both high and low-level design skills, and an overemphasis on tricky algorithms and/or cleverness. The cynic in me believes this makes them fit right into Microsoft, which until .NET rarely considered elegance an important facet of keeping software costs low. The only grads that have design skills and/or good business skills usually are self-taught.

      So, in summary: there is a myth around waterloo students, but not entirely unwarrented. They're more experienced programmers than most regular interns from other schools, and often they can be better communicators.
  • I've read the article on UWStudent.org, and while I don't know anything about E&CE050, as a computer engineering student at UW, I have taken E&CE150 not too long ago and I can definitely say that the focus is not really on the specific language used, but things like algorithms, data structures, sorting/searching, root finding.

    The second course of the set - ECE250 - is titled Algorithms and Data Structures and is taught in Java, and in either case, you are expected to pick up the language and start using it without any hand-holding. There's one hour tutorial at the start of the course that explains the language used (it was C++ for me), and after that, it's just TA's helping people during lab hours.

    I don't think this is as big a deal as it sounds...
  • As a developer who uses C++ and who realizes that very, very few people who use it actually know it I would like to thank UW for ensuring that I never have to look at a resume from a kid who graduates from there.

    Droping C++ from the cariculum ensures that students graduating with degrees from UW will not be suitable for working on anthing that most of my peers would consider interesting.

    Bravo UW.
  • Here in the UK our universities have been a bunch of evil sell-outs for ages. We always joked that our university was really a conference park that took students in when it wasn't conference season. We joked, but the conference guests got better amenities in the university accomodation than the students did.

    Also there was a lot of courses in compsci where you'd just think "Why the hell is this course in here ?" An example was on the MSc in Information Technology (basically a 1 year conversion course for people new to IT) where they had a course on inductive logic programming. This was way ahead of anything else the students were taught (data structures, basic pascal programming etc). The real reason was that the inductive logic dude was a former Oxford lecturer who came with attractive grant prospects.

    It's all about making money and not teaching students. Universities are businesses. They have only a little more integrity than those spammers who offer to sell you a degree over the internet!

    Also look at the fact that final degree marks have changed. In my parents' time it was incredibly difficult to get a 1st class degree, you had to work really hard to get a 2.1 etc. Now they basically split it like:

    bottom 10% = Do no work at all- go to no lectures: pass general , fail or 3rd class (randomly decided)

    middle 80% = 2.2 or 2.1- either did work or was intelligent but did no work.

    top 10% = 1st.


  • Following in the footsteps of the esteemed Universtity of Waterloo, we'd like to announce a joint venture with the RIAA. In return for a generous donation from the music industry, we're adding a mandatory course in copywrite extension and protection. Students will learn first hand how the indefinite extension of copywrites and the robust persecution of lawbreakers, help insure the future of our great legal tradition.
  • U Waterloo has always been in the computer industry's pockets, it seems. Back in the 80's it was IBM, now it's Microsoft. Ho hum. UW does produce good engineers, but they tend not to think outside the box. (Which may not be a quality you want in all your engineers, anyway.)

    (Disclaimer: while I've never attended UW, I used to live a block from campus, my (now ex-) wife worked there, and I once worked at a company where there were only two other (out of about fifty) non-UW grads on the tech staff. I also worked at the computer center of another university a few miles down the road from UW, we were pretty familiar with things at that campus.)
  • by paulschreiber ( 113681 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @08:08PM (#4073631) Homepage
    If you think this is a bad idea, let UW President David Johnston [uwaterloo.ca] know:

    - email president@uwaterloo.ca [mailto]
    - phone 519-888-4567, Ext. 2202
    - fax 519-888-6337

  • by unsinged int ( 561600 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @08:08PM (#4073634)
    4 years from now a bunch of grads will be heading to interviews...

    Grad: "I know C#! Hire me!"
    Industry: "C#. Check. What else do you know?"
    Grad: "Huh? Like what?"
    Industry: "Well, what did you learn in some of your other courses?
    Grad: "I know how to design a web page so that it only works under Internet Explorer."
    Industry: "Hmm..okaaaay. What type of degree did you say you have again?"
    Grad: "I have a copy right here..."
    Industry: "That says MCSE. That's not a diploma."
    Grad: "No, it is. There's some fine print at the bottom. See?"
  • by jordanda ( 160179 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:04PM (#4073871) Homepage
    My alma mater, the University of Washington, probably has the tightest relationship with Microsoft than any other school yet we've maintained a strong separation.

    Our new building is being funded almost exclusivly by personal donations from Paul Allen and Bill Gates. We do a large amount a research with Microsoft Research. All students get all the free Microsoft Software they want (except games). Some of our talented faculty have spent many years at Microsoft

    Desite all that we still have Unix orientation for new students. All homework is required to be turned in with a Unix Makefile and compile under gcc. Java is our introductory language.

    I didn't write a line of code in Windows while I was there and I'm the rule and not the exception. I suspect University of Waterloo is has a pedagogical philosophy more along the lines of a community college and scimps on theory.

    At the University of Washington I felt no pressure to learn Microsoft products or proprietary languages. It was quite the opposite, in fact. I'm certain no other University has a stronger relationship with Microsoft.
    • by Wraithlyn ( 133796 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @10:54PM (#4074361)
      "I suspect University of Waterloo is has a pedagogical philosophy more along the lines of a community college and scimps on theory."

      Not at all... Waterloo is VERY heavy on theory. It's not rated one of the top Canadian universities year after year [uwaterloo.ca] for behaving like a community college. You learn theory in class, and you learn practical on your co-op terms... last time I heard, UW had the largest co-op program in the entire world. It's a pretty good mix, not to mention it helps you pay your own way.

      Just don't venture into the psych building, or the 6th floor of the math building without a compass and a ball of string, or you'll never get out alive.
  • by rruvin ( 583160 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:18PM (#4073950)
    It looks the like "Microsoft is the anti-Christ" brigade is overhyping this as usual.

    This is not a case of an "additional mandatory course on C#" being added to the curriculum. This is an instance where the language of instruction in one of the already mandatory courses, namely ECE 150 [uwaterloo.ca], is being changed from C++ to C#.

    This does not make the degree a "Microsoft degree," anymore than using Java in introductory courses (as UW's School of Computer Science [uwaterloo.ca] does) makes a degree a "Sun degree."

  • by g4dget ( 579145 ) on Wednesday August 14, 2002 @09:25PM (#4073984)
    I think it's fine to teach C# in an introductory CS course. Java is required at many universities, and it is no more open than C# (in fact, C# has an open standard).

    What is not acceptable, however, is for grants from a company to be tied to the use of its products in the curriculum. And, in fact, while C# is fine technically and educationally, Java would still be a more useful language for students to learn.

    Decisions like this really call into question the academic integrity of a university; potential students of U. of Waterloo should take notice.

  • I can't wait to see what sort of scary EULA madness will eventually and inevitably be shrinkwrapped over the University of Waterloo's degrees. Just imagine the happy faces at graduation as they peel back the shrinkwrap on their degrees. And when MS move to a new licensing model, will all the version 1.0 University of Waterloo degrees be de-activated unless graduates pay a re-activation fee? The mind boggles.
  • by gerardrj ( 207690 ) on Thursday August 15, 2002 @12:49AM (#4074754) Journal
    Lots of talk in here so far about this is good/bad for Education so I'd like to make another point.

    I looked at the numbers in the MS press release and thought: $10 spread over 5 years and across all the universities in the country? How lame? $2.3M for this deal ($7.7M left for the remaining 4 years).

    Ten million dollars is equivilant to what, perhaps 4 seconds worth of profit from Microsoft? Consider that Microsoft proper currently sits on $40 billion in cash. If they where taxes 30% on that money. $2.3 million would be due in about 2 hours. This doesn't even get in to their temendous cash flow.

    Waterloo isn't just a Microsoft whore, it's a damed cheap one at that. I can understand selling out for the money, but they should have at least demanded $50M per year.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!