UK Government calls on enterprise to match-fund £23m diversity boosting AI scholarships
In a statement the government said that the fund would create up to two thousand scholarships for masters AI conversion courses to enable graduates to do further study courses in the field – even if their undergraduate course is not directly related.
It is hoped that the grants will create a new generation of experts in data science and AI which is more inclusive of women, Black people and people with disabilities.
The government is also calling on enterprise to match fund the AI scholarships, acknowledging that the private sector would be better placed at getting people into the jobs market quicker.
An independent organisation, to be announced later this year, will manage industry participation and investment into the AI Scholarships scheme.
While the UK has a long history in AI, from codebreaker Alan Turing’s early work through to DeepMind’s pioneering London-based lab, its tech scene lacks diversity.
In the last quarter of 2020, the Chartered Institute of IT said that women made up 20% if the IT industry. Black women make up less than 1%.
Obum Ekeke – DeepMind’s head of education partnerships, said: “The next generation of AI researchers must be representative of the world around us if AI is to benefit the whole of society.
“These scholarships will help to build a stronger and more diverse AI community in the UK and bring a wider range of experiences – as well as valuable multidisciplinary expertise – to the field.”
According to DCMS Minster for Tech and the Digital Economy Chris Philp this is double the number of scholarships that were previously available.
UK AI Council Chair Tabitha Goldstaub added that masters conversion courses welcoming people from non-STEM degrees would “attract a less homogeneous group which means the UK AI ecosystem benefits from graduates with different backgrounds, perspectives, and life experiences.”
The funding follows an earlier £13.5million investment into an AI scholarship programme in 2019, delivered by the Office for Students, supporting 28 universities in England to set up and provide degree conversion courses in AI and data science.
The programme enabled a diverse group of students to study AI and data science, with female scholarship students accounting for 76% of the scholarships.
Nearly half, 45% of the scholarship students were black and 24 per cent had disabilities, boosting representation on the AI and data science courses.
The programme is part of the government’s National AI Strategy, which commits to investing in and planning for the AI ecosystem over the next ten years, to boost the UK’s leadership as a global science and AI leader.
The new scholarships follow on from the Industrial Funded AI Masters programme supported by the government since 2019 to increase AI skills across the UK with industry investment.
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