Data science: New courses in the emerging area of engineering and computer science

How the Government is helping to provide graduates with the opportunity to study and work in STEM areas

As demand for graduates in data science - as well as engineering, cybersecurity, and software engineering - grows, the Government is now helping to provide graduates with the opportunity to study and work in these areas, allowing them to develop their careers, and increase the supply of skilled practitioners.

As part of a wider initiative combining 28 projects and involving 32 universities and colleges, the Higher Education Funding Council for England (Hefce) is awarding £1.7 million in grants to develop a range of engineering and computer science conversion courses.

According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), the shortage of data scientists is becoming “a serious constraint” in some sectors, hence why there are now specialised courses being offered to help address the issue. The best part? Students who are interested in working in this area, don’t even need to have an appropriate first degree in the subject.

That’s right - those without any previous computer or data science experience at undergraduate level can now study towards a Master’s degree in this area of emerging importance. Crucially, such courses are not limited just to data science, but encapsulate software engineering too, a combination of skills sought after in industry.

Perhaps surprisingly, graduates can go on to take on software development positions, not only in the IT sector, but also in others such as education, engineering, health services, financial services, and retail.

As an added confidence boost to those looking to head into the world of data science, HBR reports how Hal Varian, chief economist at Google, is known to have said: “The sexy job in the next ten years will be statisticians. People think I’m joking, but who would’ve guessed computer engineers would’ve been the sexy job of the 1990s?”

Professor Madeleine Atkins, Hefce’s chief executive, said it is “widely accepted” that it would benefit the economy to increase the supply of engineers. She explained: “Engineering businesses face challenges in recruiting new engineers as new roles are created and the existing workforce retires. In addition, there is ever growing demand for those trained in data science, cybersecurity, and software engineering.

“By supporting innovative course developments in universities and colleges, these awards will open up careers in these areas to a wider range of graduates, benefiting both students and employers in key sectors such as manufacturing, food and agri-tech, data science, and energy.”

On the grants being given out to the 32 colleges and universities, Universities and Science Minister, Jo Johnson, described how scientists, engineers, and mathematicians are all “vital to driving innovation, and fuelling economic growth.”

He said: “This investment will help over 1,500 graduates to retrain in these crucial STEM subjects, and is part of our commitment to people waiting to gain new skills at all stages in life. These courses will open up a rewarding career in exciting industries, and provide much needed skills to UK businesses.”

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