International award for Strathclyde Computer Science Professor

an abstract blue background with a computer with data floating out of it

Professor Andrew McGettrick. Photo Bill Simpson/ACM.    

A long-serving Professor of Computer Science at the University of Strathclyde has received an international award for his global work in teaching and promoting his subject over nearly 50 years.

Emeritus Professor Andrew McGettrick is one of three 2018 winners of the Presidential Award announced by the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM).  He is one of only 24 people to have received the award since the mid-1980s and the first UK-based winner.

Professor McGettrick, who has been at Strathclyde since 1969, is receiving the honour in recognition of “his unwavering commitment to computer science education—particularly in terms of its quality, breadth, and access—for generations of students worldwide.”

He is to be presented with the award at a ceremony in San Francisco on 23 June. ACM is the world’s largest computing society, with nearly 100,000 members. 

Professor McGettrick said: “Computing is of fundamental importance to education in the 21st century. The vast majority of innovation and creativity is now based on computing, to the extent that it has revolutionised vast sectors of industry and is essential to economic prosperity. The five largest companies in the world are all computer based - and yet the computing revolution has to be seen to be at an early stage of evolution.

“Students have to be able to engage in the creative side of computing, so that they are able to influence and benefit from the great opportunities that exist to create change, grasp opportunity and ensure that a fair, safe and just society emerges. With current developments in machine learning, computing advances will impact on the future of work - a vital matter for these students’ careers.”

Professor McGettrick has spent his entire career at Strathclyde, apart from sabbatical periods at Bell Labs in New Jersey and the Australian National University in Canberra. He joined Strathclyde for the inauguration of its degree in Computer Science and has served terms as head of his department, which is currently named the Department of Computer & Information Sciences.

He has served as a Vice-President of the British Computer Society and as a member of the UK’s Engineering Council, and is currently the UK representative to the General Assembly of the International Federation for Information Processing. 

Professor McGettrick served on ACM’s Education Board for more than 15 years, including around 10 years as chair of the Education Board and Education Council. During this time, computing education began to flourish in the US, both at high school and higher education levels, and has continued to do so; he remains involved with these activities.

ACM said that, in this role, Professor McGettrick “(left) an indelible imprint as a passionate advocate for equipping computer science students with the knowledge, skills, and tools to succeed in the field.” During his tenure, he steered key curriculum developments in computer science and software engineering.

In recent years, Professor McGettrick has played an instrumental role in championing European educational efforts and professional societies, through his work with ACM’s Europe Council and Informatics Europe. He was also one of the leading forces behind the Informatics for All initiative, an acclaimed report that explores strategies for Informatics education in Europe at all levels.

Professor McGettrick has recently been the co-author of three white papers for the European Commission, covering cyber-security, automation - with aspects of artificial intelligence and machine learning - and education.

Professor McGettrick has also endowed an annual prize for Strathclyde students. Two Andrew McGettrick Prizes are awarded annually – one to a graduating Honours student and one to a graduating Integrated Masters student, for outstanding performance in their studies.

ACM President Vicki L Hanson said: “The ACM Presidential Award is a way to honour those who have gone above and beyond to create a dynamic professional environment in which we all have been able to grow in our careers.

“This year’s Presidential Award recipients…have served ACM for decades and their contributions have been highly consequential.”