Why study AI or data science?

This page explains more about postgraduate conversion courses in AI and data science, who they are for and their benefits. It also includes frequently asked questions on the courses, how to apply and funding options.

Contact us at [email protected]

Study checklist

There are many factors to consider when deciding to do a postgraduate course. You may want to think carefully about:

  1. Additional support you may require
    Courses will offer a holistic support package designed to help students succeed. This may include pre-masters ‘bootcamps’ which give additional academic support or help students with no or little experience to improve their skills and capabilities in AI and data science.
  2. Course content
    See further details on individual courses
  3. Mode of study 
    All conversion courses will vary in modes of delivery to promote flexible learning.
  4. Entry requirements
  5. Application deadlines 
    Providers will vary in deadlines for application. Some will take on students throughout the year while others will close applications once they hit enough numbers.
  6. The type of universities and colleges which run them
    For example, whether they are multi-faculty, city-based, on a campus, or small and specialist.
  7. Course costs 
    See whether you are eligible for a scholarship.
  8. Accommodation and living costs

Supporting evidence for application, you may be asked to provide:

  1. Your CV
  2. A personal statement
  3. References

if an international student – this may include a copy of your passport or proof of your language capability.



Useful websites to help you plan for study include Prospects and UCAS or British council website, Study UK if you are an international student

About the courses

The new postgraduate conversion courses provide graduates with the skills they need to start a career in artificial intelligence (AI) and data science.

  • AI is the development of computer systems able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision making, and translation
  • data science refers to the analysis of data and in this context is understood to be the practice needed to utilise AI.

The courses include specialist teaching and work placements. They have been developed to respond to the shortage of data science and AI specialists in the UK, which is currently costing businesses more than £2 billion a year. 

The courses cover a range of specialisms within AI and data science. Modules will depend on the university, but could vary from programming and machine learning to ethics.

Some universities are running healthcare courses, equipping graduates with knowledge and insight into designing and deploying data or AI driven digital health systems.

Others are focused on using AI in a business context, for example using digital storytelling in business development and navigating big data to generate tangible solutions.

Students will develop knowledge of various AI technology including chatbots, virtual assistants and fraud detection, enabling them to identify the positives and negatives of various AI applications.

All courses include input from employers to ensure that teaching reflects workplace demand. 

Read more about the courses on offer or find further details on university websites.

This will depend on which university you choose. Universities are offering a variety of different options to help students balance their time with other commitments, such as employment or care responsibilities. 

Check the university's website for full details of the options they're offering.

The conversion courses have been designed to suit the needs of a diverse workforce. Some courses will include blended learning and part-time learning, meaning you can study alongside existing employment or caring responsibilities.

Please check with the universities you are interested in for full details of the options they're offering.

At the end of your course you will have a postgraduate degree in an AI and data science course. 

Specific details will be available from the university's website. 

All courses include work placement opportunities to help you apply your learning and grow your networks.

When universities bid for funding to set up these courses, we specified that work placements must be paid and meet minimum wage requirements. We are working with universities to understand whether coronavirus may have an impact on whether placements will be paid.

Placement duration will vary according to courses.

They must meet health and safety standards and follow the government's coronavirus guidelines.

How courses will be delivered will vary between each university. Some will offer a blend of online and face-to-face teaching.

Please liaise with the specific university you are interested in for details of how they plan to teach the course.

The OfS coordinates the activity of funded projects in delivering the postgraduate conversion courses and does not directly manage scholarships or application processes.

You can read more about our role in the postgraduate conversion courses

Please liaise directly with the university you are interested in for further details of their courses and how to apply for scholarships.

Entry requirements

Universities will have different entry requirements. Some have specified that they will typically accept those with an undergraduate degree (2:2 upwards), equivalent qualifications or relevant experience.

It does not matter what subject you studied at undergraduate level. Conversion courses are designed to help those with expertise in the area to enhance the knowledge they already have, or to equip those without prior knowledge with new capabilities ready for a career change. 

We are particularly interested in applications from female, black, registered disabled students and other underrepresented groups. 

This is in line with research which highlights that the current workforce is not representative of the wider population, and that lack of gender and ethnic diversity is affecting the capability and credibility of the sector.

Scholarships are therefore available to support students from various underrepresented groups to complete these courses. Read more about the scholarships

The UK is home to a third of Europe’s AI companies, meaning graduates are ideally placed to enter employment following the completion of their conversion course.

AI and data science are fields which are used in a wide range of sectors. Students will develop skills and capabilities relevant to careers in medicine, transport, social sciences, biosciences, sports business and more.

Professions could range from jobs requiring specialised data science expertise, to roles in a business management context. 

Salaries are usually generous, with itjobswatch.co.uk predicting the salary average in the UK for data science professionals to be £65,000. 

Many organisations are increasing recruitment in this field, including the BBC and WhatsApp. Graduates will have opportunities to apply their knowledge and build up networks throughout the course as part of their work placements.

How and where to apply

Universities are already taking applications for courses starting in September 2020.

Universities will detail how to apply on their websites. Read more about which universities you could apply to.

The application process will vary between universities. You may be asked to complete an application form or attend an interview, particularly if you are applying for a scholarship. 

Check the university's website for full details.

Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The need for skills in AI and data science was already proven, with government predictions indicating that within 20 years, 90 per cent of all jobs will require some element of digital skills. 

The need for data science and AI specialists is especially important now as businesses work towards economic recovery and researchers search for treatments and a vaccine.

AI is already being used in the fight against the virus, for example:

  • researchers are using AI to explore medicine that is genetically exclusive to patients
  • the NHS is trialling machine learning to help them plan future resource needs by testing how different scenarios would play out
  • Rolls-Royce is using AI to understand economic recovery patterns
  • businesses are using AI to gain insight into different buying behaviours
  • banks and other businesses may be able to use AI to avoid face-to-face identity verification and keep the economy moving.

The conversion courses in data science and AI therefore give graduates the opportunity to be involved in creating solutions to some of the greatest challenges faced by society.

Read more about how AI is contributing to the coronavirus response:

Course start dates are subject to change as we work with universities to work through the impact of coronavirus and react to government guidelines.

Please check university websites for the most up-to-date information on the impact of coronavirus, including course start dates. The list of courses on the OfS website will also be regularly updated to reflect government policy on course delivery.

Published 10 June 2020
Last updated 22 October 2020
22 October 2020
Updated questions
30 July 2020
New Q&A on online learning

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