Curzon Software House was created as a venture for Birmingham City University’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment students’. One of the founders, Stephen Murphy, spoke to us about new beginnings, the purpose of the software house, and where the idea stemmed from.
What inspired Curzon Software House?
“Curzon Software House was first conceived in 2009 when we were revalidating a foundation degree. Foundation courses have to include a work-based element and we were considering how we would deal with that.
“We came up with the idea of a student IT company. At the time the University did not have the resources to support the creation and management of such a huge project, so the idea disappeared for almost 10 years. The software house resurfaced in Summer 2018, when there was a call for funding from the Vice Chancellor’s Strategic Investment Fund (SIF).
“I wrote a funding bid, believing that would be the last I would see of it. What was quite interesting was that I put a couple of bids in for refurbishment of Birmingham City University’s School of Computing and Digital Technology facilities, and one of them came back right away. Our School’s home in Millennium Point was refurbished and we had some new IT facilities installed.
“I didn’t hear anything back about the funding for the software house until November 2018, which alluded to the possibility of having funding available to us. In January 2019, we were given the go ahead, and funding was made available to put the project in place.
“What we decided to do was put the investment from a couple of different funding bids together and we ended up with a big chunk of money. That is when we came up with the idea and thought “let’s run it over summer, let’s get around 40 students, let’s get some projects together” and that’s where it all started to come together.”
What makes Curzon Software House different to other projects?
“Curzon Software House is different as it is designed purely for students. If a student does a placement of any kind and gets the relevant experience in their subject area, the odds of finding employment when they graduate is massively increased.
“We found that some people were either unable or unwilling to go on a year-long placement, so we decided on micro placements. We decided to run one that was more project based, where we brought the work to the students and ran the software house like an agency or consultancy company.
“Curzon Software House is run almost entirely by students or former students. We are supporting research, being commissioned by external clients, as well as working on BCU’s internal projects such as equipment booking systems. Essentially, we are showing what Birmingham City University students can do.”
What are the main aims of Curzon Software House? How were these aims met?
“We really wanted to separate students by empowering them when they graduate. Having relevant experience is what sets a student apart from the crowd. Our main objective is to get students the experience in as many different areas as possible.
“Curzon Software House is currently running lots of small projects that require students to inject a lot of different skills, and we encourage them to work on different things. When a graduate goes out to work in industry in a big company, they’ll be expected to do one thing, but we want them to be able to demonstrate a multitude of skills, such as web and app development, social media, programming and databases.”
What are the hopes and plans for the future of Curzon Software House?
“We hope that Curzon Software House continues to take place every single summer. We’d also love it to continue throughout the academic year. We’d love to be able to bring in the students who work hard to refine their skill set, and allow them to work on real projects that impact the functions of businesses outside of Birmingham City University.
“We hope to take Curzon Software House forward, and identify students who could take more of a leadership role. Some of our students have already been the driving force behind a project, and we would expect them to deliver a project and run that semi-independently in their spare time.
“I think we need to focus mainly on moving Curzon Software House forward, and learning from what we can do better. We can always improve our practices, but trying different things is how we’re able to evolve as an initiative.”