The new conversion courses will allow graduates from both STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and non or far STEM subjects, like philosophy or geography, to significantly boost their digital skills – helping to address the shortage of AI and data specialists joining the UK workforce.
The programme aims to target graduates from backgrounds often underrepresented in these industries, particularly female, disabled and black students – £10 million will be used for scholarships to support students from underrepresented groups, out of a total of up to £24 million invested by government, universities and industry partners.
Loughborough University will soon be updating its website with details of how to apply for the scholarships.
The newly-launched data science and AI courses will teach skills relevant to a wide range of industries: many of which will be crucial to support recovery following the coronavirus pandemic including medicine, transport, social sciences, and biosciences. AI is being used in innovative ways in many other fields too, for example in countering online abuse, detecting early signs of disease, and driving improved support for at-risk communities such as refugees.
Applicants could include people returning to work after a career break and looking to retrain in a new profession.
Chris Millward, Director for Fair Access and Participation at the Office for Students, said:
"In recent years we have seen significant and increasing demand for digital skills in a range of fields. From healthcare and biosciences, to industry and transport – harnessing artificial intelligence and data science will be crucial in tackling significant global challenges for years to come.
"It is also critical that graduates from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to gain the skills that employers need. With new AI and data science conversion courses across the country, and scholarships available to students from underrepresented backgrounds, this programme will both help tackle skills gaps and increase choice and opportunities for all students."
In a statement coinciding with an earlier announcement about the scheme Loughborough's Pro Vice-Chancellor for Teaching, Professor Rachel Thomson commented: "We are delighted to have been awarded funding by the Office for Students to begin offering postgraduate conversion courses specialising in data science and artificial intelligence at Loughborough University, building on our strengths. Led by the School of Science, this new multidisciplinary programme has contributions from across the University, including Maths/Statistics, Computer Science, Engineering and Business.
"It is clear that these skills are of fundamental importance now more than ever before, and will continue to be in the future. We are excited to build on the opportunities and communities around both our Loughborough and London campuses to offer this flexible degree programme, providing greater reach and accessibility to students so we can deliver graduates to businesses in need.
"We have designed the programme content in consultation with industry and business stakeholders, and also involved our undergraduate student body in co-creating its content. We are committed to creating an inclusive atmosphere in which all students – from diverse backgrounds and with different skillsets - are encouraged to reach their maximum potential and succeed in their future careers."