data science

New findings from an external evaluation of artificial intelligence (#AI) and data science postgraduate "Join Your AI Future" conversion courses funded by the Office for Students (@OfficeStudents), shows a high proportion of enrolments from women, black and disabled students.  

The data shows that nearly half (46 per cent) of the total UK students are women, compared with 27 per cent on computing postgraduate taught masters courses previously 23 per cent are black students (12 per cent) and 20 per cent are disabled (16 per cent).

This is much higher than the tech workforce as a whole. Compared to data by TechNation highlighted in the government’s AI Sector Deal, women represent 49 per cent of the workforce but hold less than 19 per cent of all available technology jobs.

28 universities across England are offering the courses, which aim to respond to a skills shortage and a lack of diversity in the tech sector. The shortage is estimated to cost businesses £2 billion a year. 

In partnership with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and the Office for Artificial Intelligence (OAI), £13.5 million funding was allocated to the programme, consisting of £3.5 million to assist with course costs and £10 million to deliver 1,000 scholarships worth £10,000 each, aimed at women, black students and disabled students, among other groups considered to be underrepresented in higher education.

The programme aims to enrol at least 2,500 students by autumn 2023. At the end of the first year, the programme is over halfway to achieving that target with 1,315 students enrolled on courses. Of the 170 scholarship students who were from the UK, nearly three quarters (74 per cent) were women, a quarter (25 per cent) were disabled and 40 per cent were black.

Alongside the scholarships, the postgraduate courses have been designed to be delivered flexibly to fit with students’ other work or caring responsibilities.

Students from different areas of the UK, including regions outside of London and major cities, have been accepted onto the courses. In a survey conducted in November 2020 asking students enrolled in the autumn cohort, 55 per cent of students stated their reasons for choosing their particular course included that it was in a convenient location. For a significant proportion (36 per cent) it was the same university at which they studied their first degree.

The courses are designed as conversion courses, so graduates of all ages who are looking to retrain, gain new skills or return to work after a career break can apply without needing a background in a STEM subject. Applications are welcomed from students with undergraduate degrees in subjects other than STEM, as well as for new graduates yet to enter the labour market.

Findings from an external evaluation show almost half (46 per cent) of the first year’s cohort had undergraduate degrees in either non-STEM or other far-STEM subjects (such as biology, geology, psychology, medicine). In the survey, 61 per cent reported that they had applied for the courses following employment with 37 per cent of the total stated their prior role was long-term and considered it to be a career-job.

Work placements are offered as part of the courses to improve graduate employability. Universities are actively seeking companies who are interested in recruiting students for paid placement opportunities, where students can use their training to gain experience and contribute to the sector. Companies are urged to get in touch with participating universities directly to enquire.

Applied AI and Data Science (MSc) mature student, Maria Hutchinson, who studies at Solent University in Southampton, said:

"I started my career as an apprentice engineer for BT in the early 90s. I remember it was challenging being a young woman in a male-dominated environment. I took a break to start a family and then I retrained. I jumped at the chance to do this [course]. I had no prior knowledge of Python programming but that’s ok because this is a conversion course. The course would ideally suit someone who enjoys a challenge and has an analytic approach to problem solving. I found it rewarding and satisfying. In such a short space of time I learnt to create a really complex programming solution with Python and have developed a chatbot to solve a real-world problem."

Artificial Intelligence and Data Science MSc student at Keele University, Ruvimbo Mauchaza said:

"One thing that did inspire me and still motivates me is following people in the tech industry on social media. For me it’s primarily women of colour… A lot of them didn’t come from a computer science background and they often share their journey and their experiences."

Commenting on the data, Regius Professor of Computer Science, Chair of the Ada Lovelace Institute and Co-Chair of the government’s AI Review published in 2017, Professor Dame Wendy Hall said:

"I am really proud of this programme, which has been developed from the AI Review. 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."

The new figures were announced by Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden today during a panel discussion at tech industry event Founders Forum, discussing how the government and businesses can work together to boost people's digital skills and build a tech savvy nation.

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."

The Government’s Digital Strategy predicts that, within 20 years, 90 per cent of all jobs will require some element of digital skills. The Industrial Strategy states the UK’s ambition to generate good jobs and greater earning power for all; addressing skills shortages is a key component of the artificial intelligence and data ‘grand challenge’ which aims to remove retraining barriers, normalise career changes and drive diversity. This funding aims to address these issues by working with universities and industry to allow people from non-STEM backgrounds to train in artificial intelligence and data science.  

A conversion course may be aimed at either upskilling someone with capabilities and expertise to enhance those they have already or equipping them with entirely new capabilities and expertise aimed at a career change. The skills and competences offered by such courses are applicable to a wide range of professions: from jobs requiring highly technical data science and engineering knowledge, to broader business and management process roles.   

These courses are the latest stage of the government’s support for strengthening the UK’s artificial intelligence talent pipeline and represent the delivery of another of the key commitments in the £1 billion AI Sector Deal. The AI Sector Deal sets out how artificial Intelligence and data will bring economic growth to the UK. 

Of £13.5m funding, £10m is for scholarships and £3.5m for running the courses and programme, including course costs and staffing. 

Enrolment data is presented in the chart below:

Postgraduate conversion course 











All enrolments to date in year1 (target 605) 

All domiciles 
















All scholarships (target 220) 

All domiciles 
















According to national data gathered from over 540 organisations in the UK by the Tech Talent Charter in their 2020 Diversity in Tech report, data science roles increased by 46 per cent from 2018-2019 but only 25% of technical roles are held by women. 

Looking only at Computing Postgraduate Taught Masters courses for UK domicile entrants, the OfS’s recent publication showed 27% women, 12% black and 16% disabled students in 2019-20. 

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Battle of Ideas Festival #OpenForDebate with #SkillsWorldLive

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel shared a video in channel. 19 hours 8 minutes ago

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

Educating yourself in Prison: an inside job

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 19 hours 8 minutes ago

RT @NCFE: ‘For as long as humans have worked, and whatever industry they may have worked in, success has always been predicated on having t…
View Original Tweet

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page