School of Electronic Engineering and Computer Science

Analysis shows new postgraduate courses are increasing diversity in AI and data science

Admissions data from the UK Office for Students (OfS) shows a diverse range of students have enrolled on to new artificial intelligence (AI) and data science postgraduate conversion courses funded by the government body.

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Queen Mary University of London is pleased to learn from the OfS that admissions data for new postgraduate courses in Data Science and AI shows that 40 per cent of the total students are women, one quarter are Black students and 15 per cent are students are disabled. 

Queen Mary was proud to be one of eighteen universities that, as part of an important Institute of Coding (IoC) consortium bid,  secured £13 million funding from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI) to broaden the talent, and to respond to a skills shortage, in the tech sector, which is currently costing businesses £2 billion a year.  

The funding allowed Queen Mary to develop a new MSc Data Science and AI conversion programme. The university began enrolling students this autumn with a second intake due to start in January 2021. The conversion programme breaks new ground as unlike existing degrees that require learners to have a background in STEM education, the programme is open to students from varied academic disciplines. 

The funding from the OfS also included 1,000 scholarships worth £10,000 each for underrepresented groups and were particularly targeted towards women, Black students and disabled students - with these groups inadequately represented in the industry. The OfS reports that, 'just over one in five (22 per cent) of the total first student intake were awarded a scholarship. Of these, 76 per cent of scholarship students were women, nearly half (45 per cent) were Black students and almost a quarter (24 per cent) were disabled students.'

Scholarships are also available for students from the following groups:

  • students from areas of the UK where young people are less likely to go on to higher education (POLAR quintiles 1 and 2)
  • refugees
  • estranged students
  • students who have been in care
  • Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students
  • children from military families, veterans and partners of military personnel.

Chris Millward, Director for Fair and Access and Participation at the Office for Students said:

'This early enrolment data shows how postgraduate conversion courses can meet the growing demand from employers for advanced AI and data science knowledge and skills, whilst enabling people from all backgrounds and parts of the country to gain the training and qualifications they need to work in these areas.

'The enrolment data indicates the early signs of a change in the tech industry, with graduates from more diverse backgrounds given opportunities to progress their careers in these areas, which are vital to the future prosperity of people and places throughout the country.

'Through these courses, universities are showing how flexible and blended learning can support students from under-represented groups, including those who are disabled and have other work and caring responsibilities. This has been particularly important during the pandemic and will continue to be crucial as higher education plays its part in local and national recovery.’

Dame Wendy Hall, Executive Director of the Web Science Institute, University of Southampton, said:

'These enrolment figures show a very promising future for underrepresented communities within the AI and Data Science landscape. This is all about building a diverse pipeline of people who will be the future leaders of AI in industry, government and academia. This is a long game and shows how important it is that we continue to develop such programmes in the future.'

Queen Mary is continuing until early December to recruit students to start in January 2021 and is accepting applications for the next academic year.

You can view the original article from the Office for Students here.

More information

  • MSc in Data Science and AI by conversion at Queen Mary University of London. For course and scholarship enquiries, please contact: ioc@qmul.ac.uk
  • The Institute of Coding (IoC)is a large national consortium of educators, employers and outreach organisations that is committed to co-developing new courses and activities at the degree level and above that will help a larger and more diverse group of learners into digital careers.
  • The MSc Data Science and AI by conversion consortium delivery partners are; Aston University, University of Bath, Birkbeck, University of London, Coventry University (lead), University of Exeter, University of Gloucestershire, Lancaster University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Queen Mary University of London, University of Sunderland, University of the West of England.