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Funding boost for new courses in artificial intelligence and data science  

  • Date

    Thu 9 Apr 20

Researcher in CSEE

Innovative postgraduate conversion courses in artificial intelligence (AI) and data science are to be launched at the University of Essex. 

Essex was one of 18 universities to have been awarded £13m of funding to help boost the number of graduates in AI and data science technologies over the next three years. 

This follows a competitive bidding process run by the Office for Students (OfS) to deliver the funding on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI). 

Through specialist teaching and paid work placements, the conversion courses will allow graduates from both STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and non-STEM subjects to significantly boost their digital skills – helping to address the shortage of AI and data specialists joining the UK workforce.

Welcoming the announcement, Professor Maria Fasli, UNESCO Chair in Analytics and Data Science and Executive Dean (Science and Health) at Essex, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded funding to develop new PGT conversion courses in artificial intelligence and data science and also scholarships to support underrepresented students to undertake their studies.

“This is a key area of research excellence and expertise at the University of Essex which notably was one of the very first universities in the UK to found a research group in artificial intelligence back in the late 1960s. There is huge demand for skilled and qualified graduates and these courses will be designed to educate and prepare graduates to take positions in a range of sectors.”

The programme aims to target graduates from backgrounds often underrepresented in these industries, particularly female, disabled and black students. Of the total £13 million funding awarded, £10 million will be used for scholarships to support students from underrepresented groups. 

The data science and AI courses developed by Essex will teach skills relevant to a wide range of industries, including medicine, transport, social sciences, biosciences and sports business. AI is being used in innovative ways in many fields, for example in countering online abuse, detecting early signs of disease, and driving improved support for at-risk communities such as refugees.