New analysis shows over 7,600 students have enrolled on AI and data science courses to tackle digital skills gaps

An independent evaluation of the Office for Students’ (OfS) postgraduate conversion course in artificial intelligence (AI) and data science programme finds that over 37 courses were funded and more than 950 scholarships were awarded to students from underrepresented backgrounds.

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Data, from April 2020 to March 2023, shows 7,600 students have enrolled on AI and data science postgraduate conversion courses supported by OfS-allocated funding. Evidence suggests that the programme has had a substantial positive effect on the number of postgraduate students and graduates in AI and data science in the UK with expertise to address skills gaps in these industries. The programme is expected to deliver at least 6,000 new graduates in total, far exceeding the original target to deliver 2,500 by spring 2023.  

Between April 2020 and March 2023, 37 postgraduate conversion courses in AI and data science were funded and delivered across 28 universities, of which 30 courses are entirely new. These courses were developed to respond to a skills shortage and a lack of diversity in the tech sector. According to the evaluation, many students who did not previously have a qualification in these subject areas benefited from the programme to retrain in AI and data science.

In partnership with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT), £13.5 million funding was allocated to the programme, consisting of £3.5 million to assist with course costs and £10 million to deliver 1,000 scholarships worth £10,000 each, aimed at women, black students and disabled students, among other groups considered to be underrepresented in higher education. Over 950 scholarships have been awarded to students in the target groups, including the following:

  • 72 per cent of scholarships were awarded to women
  • 35 per cent of scholarships were awarded to black students
  • 25 per cent scholarships were awarded to students with a declared disability.

Following the success of this programme, further funding for scholarships has been confirmed through to March 2025 with scholarships also prioritised for students from low socioeconomic backgrounds.

Commenting on the evaluation findings, Alastair Wilson, Head of Student Pathways and Progression at the OfS, said:

‘Al and data science conversion courses offer students the chance to upskill themselves to get involved with emerging and innovative areas of the economy. 

‘Today’s evaluation reveals just how many students have been supported by our funding programme to develop skills in this industry. Over 950 students from disadvantaged backgrounds have received scholarships and a total of 7,600 students are enrolled in AI and data science conversion courses, which will provide this industry with a well-equipped pipeline of talent and further cement the UK as a global hub for AI and data science.

‘We’re encouraged to see how positive students were about their course, with over 80 per cent satisfied with the overall experience and more than two-thirds of graduates happy to recommend their course to someone who had not previously studied data science or AI. Many of these students had a first degree in a subject unrelated to AI or data science, showing the important role of the scholarships and investment to support the development of students’ skills and career opportunities, especially from underrepresented backgrounds.

‘Looking ahead to the next academic year, universities should explore where further work may be needed to ensure enough students from these target groups are able to access and succeed in these courses to support the future economy.’


  1. The OfS commissioned The Career Development Organisation (CRAC) to undertake an evaluation of the programme between April 2020 and March 2023. Read CRAC’s independent evaluation.
  2. Read more about the OfS's and DSIT's AI and data science postgraduate conversion course programme, which aims to help address the shortage of AI and data specialists in the UK and increase diversity in the sector.
Published 14 February 2024

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