Visa is funding data science and artificial intelligence (AI) scholarships for students from underrepresented backgrounds in a programme aimed at increasing diversity in the sector and closing the UK skills shortage.
The payments giant is funding scholarships as part of a programme run with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, which will offer students the opportunity to complete a postgraduate course and enter the workforce. The initiative aims to increase participation in the tech industry amongst women, black students, disabled students, and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds, bringing much needed diversity into the AI sector.
Minister for AI Jonathan Berry, a Conservative peer, said AI and data science are dramatically changing the way we live and work, “and importantly, powering our economy with high-paid jobs now and into the future”.
Berry added: “A technology as diverse as AI needs a diverse workforce, and our scholarship programme is helping us to deliver exactly that, by investing in skills and training to strengthen our incredible British talent pool.”
The University of Leeds and Loughborough University are offering the data science and AI scholarships for the upcoming 2023-24 academic year.
Louise Banahene, director of educational engagement at the University of Leeds, said the scholarships are an opportunity to increase diversity “in an industry which will see only more demand for skills and expertise in the future”.
“We believe that financial constraints shouldn’t hold excellent students from studying with us and contributing to solve global challenges of tomorrow. We’re committed to addressing underrepresentation and are delighted to be partnering to address under-representation through our growing package of scholarships.”
Nick Jennings, vice-chancellor at Loughborough University, said: “AI is a huge growth area, and it is vital that opportunities in this field are open to everyone. These scholarships will enable people from underrepresented groups and backgrounds to learn the digital skills needed to meet the UK’s growing demand for AI expertise.”
Visa’s UK managing director, Mandy Lamb, said AI can transform financial services for the better, improving the financial lives and wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and the UK economy. “As a result, it’s of paramount importance that we do all we can to nurture and develop skills and talent across topics such as coding, programming and practical AI data science.”
At the 2021 Conservative party conference in Manchester, Rishi Sunak, then chancellor of the exchequer, confirmed the creation of 2,000 AI scholarships, adding to the existing 1,000 conversion course scholarships.