OfS confirms £8.1 million boost for postgraduate AI conversion courses as evaluation finds promising signs of increase in diversity of graduates

The Office for Students (OfS) has confirmed a further £8.1 million will be made available for postgraduate conversion course scholarships in artificial intelligence (AI) and data science to increase the diversity of students entering these careers.

Analysts ready

Since April 2020, the OfS has allocated £18.1 million to universities to deliver 1,818 postgraduate conversion course scholarships in AI and data science. The £8.1 million funding confirmed today will help up to 818 more students access a scholarship on an AI or data science conversion course.

In March 2023 the OfS announced that 31 universities and colleges, including seven as part of a collaborative project, would receive a share of £8.1 million to deliver scholarships in the 2023-24 academic year. The scholarships aim to increase diversity and address digital skills gap in the workforce. The programme funds scholarships designed to encourage more women, black students, disabled students and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to study AI and data science, as these groups are underrepresented in jobs that require these qualifications.

Today’s confirmation of funding will ensure that universities involved in the scholarship programme will be able to continue to support students from diverse backgrounds to upskill and progress into careers in the AI and data science.

The OfS commissioned the Careers Research and Advisory Centre (CRAC) to evaluate the scholarship funding and today the first interim evaluation report is published, which has helped to inform government funding decisions. The evaluation report’s findings include:

  • Universities are making progress to increase the diversity of those graduating from these courses and are on track to deliver 807 government-funded scholarships across the programme in 2023-24.
  • The programme has the potential to contribute towards the aim of increasing the supply of digitally skilled workers through conversion courses. 57 courses are currently available in the programme, including nine newly developed courses, with a variety of modes and delivery models.
  • £6.7 million has been invested by organisations to support the programme’s work. While the amount of financial co-investment for industry funded scholarships has been less than anticipated, industry partners have provided £6.3 million of in-kind support, including advice, work placements, student mentoring and co-supervising dissertation projects.

Director for Fair Access and Participation at the OfS, John Blake, said:

‘Al and data science courses offer students the chance to take part in emerging areas of the economy, building on core skills including maths in innovative ways. 

‘This funding will continue to support this growing sector and give skilled graduates from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to develop skills in the industry. 

‘Today's evaluation shows promising signs that the scholarship programme will lead to increased opportunities for disadvantaged students to access and succeed on these courses. We've also seen significant investment from employers alongside our own, and collaboration between universities and industry to support students on these courses and we encourage other employers to get involved to help train the future digital workforce. 

‘However, the evaluation also flags potential issues, including the recruitment of sufficient UK students from diverse backgrounds. Universities should explore where further efforts 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.’

Minister for AI, Viscount Camrose, said:

‘The UK already has an exceptional AI talent pool to call on, but an extra £8 million boost will encourage more people to pursue careers in this transformative technology.

‘Given the rapid pace of development in AI, we need to make sure people across the country, whatever their background, have the skills they need to join the sector. Initiatives like this will create more opportunities for jobs, growth and will supercharge the economy.

‘A diverse workforce is key to enabling us to tap into the enormous range of benefits AI can bring, whether in healthcare or beyond. The next wave of brilliant British talent will ensure we can realise that potential.’


      1. The Office for Students is the independent regulator for higher education in England. Our aim is to ensure that every student, whatever their background, has a fulfilling experience of higher education that enriches their lives and careers.
      2. Read the interim evaluation report from CRAC.
      3. Read about the postgraduate conversion courses in data science and artificial intelligence.
      4. Read about the funding competitions and the funding announced in each stage.
      5. The aims of the postgraduate conversion course programme are to increase:

        - the diversity of graduates entering the UK AI- and data science-related workforce
        - the supply of digitally skilled workers by converting graduates who did not study a related or science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degree
        - the extent of industry support in helping to diversify the UK AI and data science workforce.
      6. University funding allocations for 2024-25 will be confirmed in early 2024. The OfS has guidance for prospective students about the courses available and how to apply.
      7. The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) formally announced the £8.1 million funding in October 2023.
Published 01 November 2023

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