Visa, a world leader in digital payments, has partnered with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to co-fund data science and artificial intelligence (AI) scholarships for underrepresented students in postgraduate conversion courses at the University of Leeds and Loughborough University.
This collaboration comes as part of the UK Government's strategic AI skills scheme, launched by DSIT, and implemented by the Office for Students (OfS). The scheme is aimed at tackling the shortage of skilled technology professionals, and helping the UK prepare for a sustained demand for digital expertise in the long term.
The programme will fund data science and AI scholarships for the upcoming 2023-24 academic year. Working closely with the Government, Visa will contribute to three scholarships and the government will match this investment fund with an additional nine scholarships, together enabling 12 underrepresented students to complete an AI postgraduate course and enter the tech workforce.
This new partnership is designed to enable more women, black students, disabled students, and students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to enter the technology sector, equipping them with the skills they need to succeed while also benefitting the wider UK economy.
Visa has long been committed to recognising the power of diversity of thought, valuing every individual for their unique background, experiences, and view of the world. Alongside investing in a workplace that encourages diverse perspectives, Visa has embedded inclusion and diversity as a business imperative, impacting not just its workforce but the products it designs and the businesses it serves. Visa was an early adopter of AI technology and has been using it to provide better user outcomes for 30 years, so we are excited to be contributing to growing a diverse pool of fresh talent to bring the benefits of this transformative technology to UK businesses.
Visa’s participation in the Government's AI sponsorship initiative builds on The Visa Scholarship Programme, a collaborative effort with the Windsor Fellowship launched in 2021, aimed at supporting the development of diverse talent in STEM by providing tuition fees contributions for successful applicants from underrepresented and socially disadvantaged backgrounds.
Minister for AI, Viscount Camrose, said: “Emerging technologies like AI and data science are dramatically changing the way we live and work - and importantly, powering our economy with high-paid jobs now and into the future.
“A technology as diverse as AI needs a diverse workforce, and our scholarship programme is helping us to deliver exactly that, by investing in skills and training to strengthen our incredible British talent pool.
“This will make sure our brightest young minds from all backgrounds can realise the enormous opportunities that a career in AI and data science offers”.
Mandy Lamb, Managing Director, UK & Ireland, Visa, commented: “Visa has harnessed the power of AI to fight fraud for over 30 years now. We believe that it can fundamentally transform financial services for the better, improving the financial lives and wellbeing of individuals, businesses, and the UK economy. As a result, it’s of paramount importance that we do all we can to nurture and develop skills and talent across topics such as coding, programming, and practical AI data science.”
John Blake, Director for Fair Access and Participation, Office for Students, said: “'This funding pledge from Visa is confirmation of the power of relationships between universities and employers to increase diversity and equality of opportunity, both in higher education and in the workplace.
“Since this programme was launched, hundreds of students from disadvantaged and minority backgrounds have been given the opportunity to study AI and data science conversion courses to enhance their skills and advance in their career. It is encouraging to see employers get on board with supporting universities to help underrepresented students unlock their skills potential, which in turn provides the UK’s data science and AI sector with a wider pool of highly skilled graduates.
“Today’s pledge joins investment received from other companies to support students’ AI and data science skills. We encourage more employers to get involved to nurture this talent and help train the digital workforce of tomorrow.”
Louise Banahene, Director of Educational Engagement at the University of Leeds, said: “These scholarships offer a really exciting opportunity to increase diversity in an industry which will see only more demand for skills and expertise in the future.
“We believe that financial constraints shouldn’t hold excellent students from studying with us and contributing to solve global challenges of tomorrow. We’re committed to addressing under-representation and are delighted to be partnering to address under-representation through our growing package of scholarships.”
Professor Nick Jennings, Loughborough University’s Vice-Chancellor, is a world-leading authority in artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and cybersecurity. He said: “We are delighted to work with Visa and DSIT on this new scholarship programme. AI is a huge growth area, and it is vital that opportunities in this field are open to everyone. These scholarships will enable people from underrepresented groups and backgrounds to learn the digital skills needed to meet the UK’s growing demand for AI expertise.”