The Office for Students (OfS) has announced a funding competition in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), offering up £17 million.
The funding will support universities and colleges to provide scholarships to students studying artificial intelligence and data science postgraduate conversion courses.
These scholarships, which aim to encourage more women, black students, disabled students, and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to study AI and data science, will be worth £10,000.
‘We’re investing millions to help people previously underrepresented in tech’
Director for Fair Access and Participation at the Office for Students, John Blake, commented on the importance AI and data science has on the economy and society.
He said: ‘The data shows the clear need for highly skilled AI graduates in the UK and this funding will provide opportunities for universities and colleges to establish the strong and long lasting relationships with industry necessary to boost local economies.‘
Employers across the country have been encouraged to take part in the programme through co-funding scholarships.
Currently, the digital skills gap costs the UK economy as much as £63 billion a year in potential GDP, estimates suggest. However, certain groups of students, such as women, black students, disabled students, and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, are significantly underrepresented in AI and data science industries.
Damian Collins, Minister for Technology and Digital Economy, said: ‘AI is creating great jobs across the country and we want to make sure they are open to everyone. We’re investing millions to help people previously underrepresented in tech get the skills they need for a successful career. I encourage eligible universities and colleges to bid for this funding.’
Courses are designed to ‘upskill’ students
The conversion courses are designed to be suitable for students without a background or undergraduate degree in a STEM subject, and aim to upskill students with the aim of starting careers in AI and data science.
This funding will build on the existing investment of £13.5 million in the current postgraduate conversion course programme. It began in 2010 and has ‘exceeded recruitment targets’, with 3,859 students enrolled up to March 2022. There are 28 universities across England that currently offer the courses.
Over 80% of jobs advertised in the UK now require digital skills, the government’s Digital Strategy states. It also outlines the UK’s ambition to generate good jobs through addressing skills shortages, removing retraining barriers, normalising career changes, and driving diversity.
This funding, therefore, aims to address these issues ‘by working with universities and industry to allow people from non-STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) backgrounds to train in artificial intelligence and data science.’