Posted Thursday 30 March 2023
Kingston University is getting set to deliver a suite of new postgraduate scholarships aimed at broadening the pool of students progressing into data science and artificial intelligence (AI) careers.
The scholarships are being launched after the University was named one of 30 institutions across the country to receive funding from an £8.1m Department for Science, Innovation and Technology and Office for Artificial Intelligence pot, awarded by the Office for Students (OfS). The grants, an extension of a programme first launched in 2019, will provide additional opportunities for applicants from under-represented groups, including Black, female and disabled students, as well as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds, to undertake a postgraduate conversion course in AI and data science.
The scholarships are open for applications for the 2023-24 academic year and are each worth £10,000. They will enable eligible students who may have a background outside traditional science, technology, engineering or mathematics subject areas to move into the sector as part of government aims to address the country’s digital skills gaps and increase diversity.
Students with an undergraduate degree in any discipline are now able to apply for a scholarship to complete the MSc Data Science course offered by the University. Designed to be accessible to students from a variety of backgrounds and offer flexible study patterns, the course combines modules in data management, analysis, modelling, visualisation and artificial intelligence, with opportunities for paid placements and close links to industry.
Students from non-STEM backgrounds will take part in an introductory two-week bootcamp to hone the technical skills needed for the course. As well as introducing students to core data science skills, such as programming, statistics and data modelling, it will include sessions led by industry guest speakers and high achieving alumni discussing the wide variety of career opportunities open to graduates.
Dr James Denholm-Price, Head of the University’s Computer Science Department and MSc Data Science course leader, said there was enormous potential for programme participants to launch thriving careers, some in areas that, until recent times, had never even existed. “Artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science are becoming increasingly relevant across all sectors of society and, in the modern workplace, virtually every industry requires talented data scientists to support the business,” he said.
“A key part of working in data science is to communicate with people in a particular domain, so if someone has a real passion for their field – be it fashion, bioscience or business – they will already have hugely valuable insight and skills to take back into that industry as a data scientist after completing this course.”
Engineering and technology companies have pledged investment in the programme through an OfS- commissioned employer engagement partner, Group GTI, with industry partners co-funding the scholarships. Carbon Trade eXchange Limited (CTX), a digital carbon offsetting exchange company, is the first industry partner to confirm support for the Kingston University scholarships, with further industry partners expected to come on board in the near future.
CTX chief executive officer and founder Wayne Sharpe said the scholarships would create greater opportunities for graduates from a wide range of backgrounds to access careers in data science and artificial intelligence and increase diversity in an increasingly fast-growing sector. “Partnering with Kingston University on this programme will enable us to support the development of the next generation of talented data scientists and help address the country’s digital skills gap,” he added.
Kingston University is well known for its work highlighting the significant economic benefits of such graduate attributes as problem solving, digital competency and the ability to analyse and think creatively as part of its Future Skills campaign. The skills students gained through data science and artificial intelligence courses were among those most valued by industry, the University’s Provost Professor Helen Laville said.
“The new scholarships offer an exciting route into data science careers for students from a diverse range of backgrounds,” she said. “We know from the University’s Future Skills reports just how important knowledge acquired through courses such as this is to business. This award from the Office for Students further underpins our commitment to working with industry to prepare our students for career success. It also speaks to our tradition of supporting students from under-represented backgrounds into higher education and ensuring they are able to thrive once they graduate.”
OfS Director for Fair Access and Participation John Blake said the funding would provide the UK’s data science and AI sector with a wider pool of highly skilled graduates. “This funding will enhance the relationships established between universities and employers that are vital for the success of this industry,” he said.
The funding is the latest phase of an OfS programme, which by the end of last year, had seen 888 student scholarships awarded nationally.