Scholarships to get women and people from ethnic minorities into tech

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A NEW tech course from a Scottish university will include a scholarship programme for female and ethnic minority applicants.

Abertay’s MSc Applied Artificial Intelligence (AI) and User Experience (UX) will run this September for the first time and is the UK’s first Master’s degree to combine AI, UX Research, and Psychology.

In collaboration with The Data Lab, the University will offer five scholarship opportunities providing funding for the programme, as part of a commitment to working towards reducing the sector’s diversity gap.

Computer arts student - Education News Scotland
Photo by Abertay University. Statistics consistently highlight diversity as an ongoing issue for the UK tech sector.

Professor Ruth Falconer, Head of Abertay University’s Division of Games Technology and Mathematics and a board member of Women In Games, said the scholarships represented a positive step forward.

She added: “There is much work to be done if we want to make progress on diversifying the tech sector workforce, and we see these scholarships as a positive step towards encouraging women and people from ethnic minorities into University and the creative and tech industries.

“We will create the next generation of AI talent and our graduates from this new course will recognise the vitally important role of human behaviour in technology use and the use of AI in delivering innovative products and services.

“The latest Tech Nation report highlighted that Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning companies received the highest proportion of CreaTech investment in 2020 – £478m and both the UK and Scottish Governments have urgently called for an increase in Data and AI skills, with the need for talented AI professionals at all levels growing every year.”

Computing students - Education News Scotland
Photo by Abertay University. Females studying computing-related subjects in Scottish schools dropped from nearly 10,000 in 2001 to just under 1,900 last year.

She continued: “But to be truly successful, that talent pool should be diverse and more action is needed across the sector to encourage a wider range of people into this growing jobs market.”

Students will learn to design and interrogate AI systems, as well as gaining a thorough understanding of data techniques and exploring how Psychology and AI principles can be applied to the design of new prototypes.

Dr Andrea Szymkowiak, programme leader on the new course, said: “This exciting new programme will enable students to look at today’s challenges emerging from the use and development of AI and put a human perspective on it.

Student leads group work project - Education News Scotland
Photo by Abertay University. Using data and AI to acquire deeper insights into human behaviour and psychology, the new programme will focus on the ethical responsibilities of developing AI applications.

“Now, more than ever, technology programmes should consider how technology can be used for the benefit of our societies, educate users how to interpret data meaningfully, but also raise awareness of the misuse of the technology.”

The scholarships are co-funded by the DataLab, the Scottish Funding Council and the European Social Fund/Developing Scotland’s Workforce (DSW) programme.

Marian Dunbar of The Data Lab said: “In addition to a funded scholarship to cover tuition fees, students join a year-long The Data Lab MSc Programme of events, training and workshops designed to support and prepare them for their next career steps.

“These include an opportunity to apply for a paid industrial placement; an industry-sponsored innovation challenge; sector-specific communication and employability training sessions and access to a network of expertise through The Data Lab MSc Alumni and events such as Data Talent.”