09 July 2021

New AI course offers scholarships for women and ethnic minorities

New AI course offers scholarships for women and ethnic minorities

Students discussing work at Abertay

A new course from Abertay 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 (Scotland's Innovation Centre for Data and AI) 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.

Statistics consistently highlight diversity as an ongoing issue for the UK tech sector, with the Tech Nation 2021 report showing just 25% of workers in the industry are female and 15% ethnic minorities.

“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" - Dr Andrea Szymkowiak, programme leader 

And recent SQA stats revealed that the number of females studying computing-related subjects in Scottish schools dropped from nearly 10,000 in 2001 to just under 1,900 last year.

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."

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.

"I am delighted that SFC is a joint funder of a scholarship programme designed to make this ground-breaking course more accessible to female and ethnic minority students" - Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council

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. 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.”

Karen Watt, Chief Executive of the Scottish Funding Council, said: “Scotland’s future technology economy depends on developing talent from every part of society. I am delighted that SFC is a joint funder of a scholarship programme designed to make this ground-breaking course more accessible to female and ethnic minority students.”

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