Data scientist demand evident in applications to new course

Data scientist post-graduate course at City University London takes on three times more students than expected

A new data scientist post-graduate course at City University London has taken on more than three times more students than expected after high levels of interest.

The MSc Data Science course was announced to potential applicants in January. Thirty-four students were selected after a total of 108 applications. In May the course head said he expected to take on 10 students in the first year, but the level of interest has seen the University expand it.

Dr Artur d'Avila Garcez, reader in neural-symbolic computing at City University London and head of the course, said the students come from a variety of backgrounds including computer science, maths, economics and engineering. Students have first degrees from higher education organisations including University of Oxford, Cambridge, Leeds, Manchester, Bristol, Durham, UC Irvine, Sydney, UCL, Queen Mary, Southampton and Exeter.

The high level of interest was no surprise because of business interest in people that can understand data. Speaking to Computer Weekly in May, Garcez said that if you look at job boards in London, the high demand for professionals that can analyse and understand data is high. “We saw that there was interest in industry for so-called data scientists,” he said.

The course has three core foundations: machine learning, high performance computing and data visualisation.

Because the course attracts students from a wide variety of backgrounds it has modules to introduce students to computer science and big data.

“This course is broader than computer science and includes business computing and other application areas,” said Garcez. "We have a large spectrum in terms of background and also a mix of recent graduates and those with more than 20 years of experience of things like data analysis, business intelligence, and databases."

“The students are very high quality and engaged with the content,” said Garcez. He said they also knew what they wanted and “were looking actively at what was being offered by different universities.”

He said interest in the course has come particularly from companies in the energy, transport, security and health sectors.

Research undertaken by OnePoll last year, for database and analytic software supplier Teradata, revealed CEOs in the UK, France and Germany are crying out for data scientists.

The survey of 300 C-level executives with 100 from each country. A total of 62% said the lack of data scientists is causing a real problem. More than half (54%) of UK respondents said this is down to potential recruits lacking the right combination of business, IT, analytics and communication skills.

In a government report released in October last year, Seizing the data opportunity - A strategy for UK data capability, the lack of data skills was identified as a major barrier to the UK taking full economic benefit from big data. The report set out a number of actons including Universities UK reviewing how data analytics skills are taught across different disciplines and assess whether more work is required to further embed these skills across disciplines.

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