AI studies in London have doubled since the pandemic

Statistics show enrolments onto AI-focused courses in London universities have more than doubled since 2019.

Data released this academic year by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has shown the number of students enrolling in higher education (university level) courses in the UK focusing on the study of AI has almost tripled in the past three academic years, with London-based universities taking on more than double the students they did in 2019. 

Source: HESA

Conversely, data from HESA, who collect, assure and disseminate data about higher education in the UK on behalf of organisations like the Department for Education, also showed the number of enrolments into the same areas of study in the EU have dropped by almost one-third.

Source: HESA

Government investment

Also this year, the Government announced it would invest £54 million in Universities across the UK to support their work to develop cutting-edge AI technology.

The commitments follow the announcement in March that £117 million of funding would be given to Centres for Doctoral Training in AI, with a further £46 million to support Turing AI Fellowships to develop the next generation of top AI talent.

Technology Secretary Chloe Smith said at the time: “Last year, the UK became just the third country in the world to have a tech sector valued at $1 trillion. 

“It is the biggest in Europe by some distance and behind only the US and China globally.

“The technology landscape, though, is constantly evolving, and we need a tech ecosystem which can respond to those shifting sands, harness its opportunities, and address emerging challenges. 

“The measures unveiled today will do exactly that.” 

Why is there so much interest?

Nabil Aouf, Professor of Robotics, Autonomous Systems, and Machine Intelligence at City University London oversees several AI-focused MSC courses.

He said: “We get a lot of applications internally from within the UK, but we also get a lot internationally who want to study autonomous systems and AI.

“The courses are definitely growing in popularity.

“What we are offering is not an MSC that is specialised in classical robotics only.

“We offer an alternative which provides tools to the students to develop autonomous systems in space, or drones, or autonomous vehicles.

“There’s a lot of interest from students from South Asia, Iran, China, Pakistan, Sri-Lanka, but mostly from India.

“We work very closely with industry SMEs and big players in the AI market. 

“We prepare students for additional research degrees and for integration into big companies.

“We have a lot of people from the industry coming in to speak to the students.

“London has a nice ecosystem for SMEs and so has a great chance to attract students by offering them the chance to get a role in AI.

“The UK is providing a nice ecosystem for students to get jobs.

“Language may play a part as many students after coming to the UK can maybe go to the US afterward.

Aouf believes there is an opportunity for AI to be taught in secondary education.

He said: “We have to be careful in how we introduce it.

“Even at the university, level you have very few who offer a bachelors in AI.

“They will offer computer science with a major in AI because before running you need to walk.

“There are skills you need to acquire first before going into AI.

“However, we can lay the groundwork in programming and try to introduce the application through courses like computer programming which are already being taught as an A level.”

Featured image by Steve Johnson on Unsplash.

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