The Bartlett announces funding to diversify the AI and data science sector

Urban Spatial Science students
Urban Spatial Science students
UCL’s Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) has announced 24 new scholarships, worth a total of £240,000, aimed at driving students from under-represented backgrounds into the artificial intelligence (AI) and data science sectors.

UCL’s Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) has announced 24 new scholarships, worth a total of £240,000, aimed at driving students from under-represented backgrounds into the artificial intelligence (AI) and data science sectors.

The CASA Urban Futures scholarships are part of the Office for Students’ (OfS) nationwide drive to expand access to this dynamic sector for women, students of colour, those with disabilities and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. The OfS will fund 22 of the places as part of its artificial intelligence (AI) scholarship programme, with CASA funding two further scholarships for the 2023/24 academic year.

The OfS funding will support more students from underrepresented groups to study AI and data science postgraduate conversion courses, delivered at UCL as CASA’s MSc in Urban Spatial Science, boosting skills development within the industry.

The funding, of £10,000 per place, can be used by scholars towards tuition and / or living costs, studied either full time, part time (over two years) or flexibly (over five years). Students must have an offer for the Urban Spatial Science MSc in order to be considered and meet various criteria including being an ethnic minority or having a disability, among others.

Dr Adam Dennett, Head of UCL’s Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis, said: "This funding is a major endorsement from the OfS of CASA’s leading and cutting-edge education programmes in AI and the impact these will have in building skills for the future. I am hopeful that this scholarship will help to further diversify our student body, building on the excellent work started by the Bartlett Promise."

CASA’s MSc in Urban Spatial Science teaches students to take advantage of emerging data, software and hardware innovations to tackle the issues that face the urban world, such as land use, effective planning and sustainability.
The scholarship holders will have direct access to mentors, industry tools, project supervision and career guidance from companies including CARTO, Buro Happold, Knight Frank, Westminster Council and Transport for London (TfL).

Since the OfS launched the programme in 2020, over 500 students have been supported to study for the conversion course. Graduates have gone on to start careers in urban planning, software development, industrial and academic research and the data science teams within local government. Graduates of CASA’s course now work at companies including Deloitte, Snapchat, Amazon and Uber.

John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation, OfS, added: "Following a competitive bidding process, we are investing an initial £8.1 million in 30 universities to deliver high quality conversion courses that lead to positive outcomes for students. This funding will enhance the relationships established between universities and employers that are vital for the success of this industry."

To date, the postgraduate conversion course programme has exceeded recruitment targets with 6,317 students enrolled on AI and data science courses through 31 December 2022. Across the universities already participating, 70% of the students enrolled across the programme are women, 35% are Black students, and 26% are disabled. This is much higher than the tech workforce as a whole.

Professor Christoph Lindner, Dean of The Bartlett, UCL’s Faculty of the Built Environment, said: "This is exciting news that recognises the importance of diversifying the AI and data science industries. The scholarship programme aligns with The Bartlett’s commitment to EDI and will accelerate our mission to widen access to higher education and the built environment sector. Along with everyone at the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA), we look forward to welcoming these new students and supporting their success and future career ambitions."

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