University of Edinburgh Programme to Address National Data Skills Shortage

The University of Edinburgh is launching an updated range of short courses, aimed at helping people develop the data skills that have been identified as vital for economic recovery, following the Covid-19 pandemic.

A range of new courses funded by the Scottish Funding Council, which provide non-traditional routes for individuals to access courses in data skills, have been created across a range of subject areas, supported by the Bayes Centre, the University of Edinburgh’s hub for Data Science and Artificial Intelligence.

UK think tank the Learning & Work Institute, recently warned that the UK is heading towards a digital skills shortage ‘disaster’ as the number of young people who take IT subjects at GCSE level has dropped by 40%, even as demand for AI and data science skills has soared from employers, with 92% of business saying that a basic level of digital skills is important for any employee.

The Scottish Government Digital Skills Strategy, published on the 11th March 2021, set out ambitious national plans, including the training of 10,000 people yearly in advanced digital skills.

The Data Skills Workforce Development (DSWD) programme seeks to meet this need, by providing an inclusive route for individuals to undertake digital skills development, by offering a range of short, flexible, standalone courses. The courses are designed to both enable working professionals to upskill and reskill, and the unemployed to develop professionally in a way that will allow them to enter the field of digital data.

The courses offer a stepped approach, allowing learners to pick the most relevant parts of the training, only undertaking that which meets their needs. This approach can allow learners to progress from entry to an advanced level as their career progresses, or to kick start their career in a new direction.

Courses are delivered by areas of expertise from across the University of Edinburgh and facilitated by the Bayes Centre, as part of the Data-Driven Innovation (DDI) Programme within the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal. This allows for a unique opportunity whereby learners can access a vast range of skills that would be unable to be delivered in a traditional format.


A portfolio of courses are now available in a range of formats, some of which are credit-bearing, to allow for a huge degree of flexibility for learners. Courses include:

  • Practical Introduction to Data Science – an introduction to data science concepts to allow those in the workplace to develop the skills to apply data science to their work.
  • Data Visualisation for Professionals, a more in depth course that teaches general knowledge about the theory, application, design and evaluation of data visualisations.
  • Leading Technology and Innovation in Organisations – aimed at aspiring leaders and managers to provide them with the key data science knowledge to lead change and transformation.
  • Health Data Science – data science is revolutionising medicine and this course equips healthcare professionals with the key data skills to drive this innovation.


Fully funded places from the Scottish Funding Council via their Upskilling Fund and National Transition Training Fund are available to the Scottish workforce, enabling businesses to easily upskill workers, with potentially huge benefit to the UK economy.

Working with Schools and DDI hubs from across the University of Edinburgh, an expanded portfolio of courses will be available from areas across the University of Edinburgh, including the Business School, Usher Institute, School of Engineering, School of Informatics and Edinburgh Futures Institute.

More than a dozen courses are available for entry in 2021 under the DSWD programme, alongside traditional Masters Programmes, including the Bayes Centre’s Data Science, Technology and Innovation (DSTI) modular masters programme.

The DSTI allows learners to choose their point of entry into data science across the sciences, medicine, arts and humanities and provides a wide choice of modules, which can either be taken separately for specific learning, or built into a framework to earn a postgraduate degree.

The University of Edinburgh also offers a number of free Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) through its partners Coursera and edX. MOOCs such as Data Ethics, AI and Responsible Innovation, Statistics: Unlocking the World of Data and Data Science in Stratified Healthcare and Precision Medicine offer learners a free entry point into the world of data science in a flexible and free format.

Teresa Ironside, Director of Data Science Education at the Bayes Centre, said:

“Data Skills are of growing importance to the Scottish economy and the Data Skills Workforce Development programme is a fantastic route for business and individuals to tap into training that can provide real world benefits. With the DSTI Masters Programme and a range of free MOOCs also available from the University of Edinburgh and Scottish Funding Council funded places available now, it’s an incredible and diverse opportunity for anyone to develop their skillset.”

Professor Michael Rovatsos, Director of the Bayes Centre said:

“The Bayes Centre is able to work with partners across the University of Edinburgh to offer our data skills courses, allowing people to pick the training that is most applicable to their professional development. This approach, paired with the range of options it provides the learners to tailor their learning, is an incredibly powerful and unique tool for meeting the challenges faced in the economic recovery from Covid-19.”

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