Women make up nearly half of all OfS-funded AI and data science postgrads

Twenty-eight universities across England are offering the post-graduate conversion courses designed to boost diversity in the tech sector

Nearly half of students on artificial intelligence (AI) and data science postgraduate conversion courses funded by the Office for Students (OfS) are women, new analysis has found.

The OfS’s nationwide programme of industry-funded courses are part of the government’s AI Sector Deal, which was launched in April 2018. The government’s Digital Strategy predicts that, within 20 years, 90 per cent of all jobs will require some digital skills.

New findings from an external evaluation, released today, show a high proportion of enrolments from women, black and disabled students. Specifically:

  • Nearly half (46 per cent) of the total UK students are women
  • 23 per cent are black students (12 per cent)
  • 20 per cent are disabled (16 per cent)

 

1,315 students are so far enrolled on the conversion courses across 28 universities across England, taking the OfS over halfway to achieving its target at least 2,500 students by autumn 2023.

The OfS funds the programme in partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI). £13.5m funding has been allocated: £3.5m to assist with course costs and £10m to for 1,000 scholarships worth £10,000 each – these are aimed at women, black students and disabled students, among other groups considered to be underrepresented in higher education including refugees, students who have been in care and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students.

The postgraduate courses are aimed at graduates of all ages – even if they have undergraduate degrees in non-STEM subjects – as well as for new graduates yet to enter the labour market, and have been designed to fit around work or caring responsibilities. Work placements are offered as part of the courses.

This enrolment data shows early and promising indications of a change within the tech industry, which will help to meet skills shortages, whilst enabling the industry to look more like society as a whole – Chris Millward, OfS

“I am really proud of this programme, which has been developed from the AI Review,” said Professor Dame Wendy Hall, co-chair of the government’s AI Review published in 2017.

“It provides evidence to show that the courses are delivering new and diverse tech talent into the sector, whether that be training non-STEM graduates with transferable skills or providing development opportunities to upskill individuals within related sectors. The courses and scholarships present inclusive and flexible opportunities to respond to a modern workforce with varied needs and commitments and a growing demand for jobs which will help to support the UK’s post-pandemic recovery.”

Announcing the figures at a tech industry event today, digital secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Our £13.5 million investment in training courses and scholarships is paying off with these fantastic new figures showing positive results to combat the lack of diversity in the tech sector.

“Our new National AI Strategy will also put diversity at the heart of our plans to develop and maintain the best AI workforce in the world and will be vital in helping build a fairer, stronger and more diverse industry.”

The OfS’s director for fair access and participation Chris Millward said:

“This enrolment data shows early and promising indications of a change within the tech industry, which will help to meet skills shortages, whilst enabling the industry to look more like society as a whole.

“The courses provide exciting opportunities for students to fit their studies around other commitments through flexible learning and scholarship support. This is enabling graduates at different points of their careers to gain the advanced skills they and their employers will need for the future.”


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