Imperial College London unveils degree course in machine learning

UK university Imperial College London said it will launch an online degree in machine learning and its related applications for the 2020-21 academic year.

It will be one of the first online courses that focuses on the subject and comes at a time when retailers and the wider business world are crying out for technological talent and digital expertise.

An estimated 600,000 vacancies in digital technology are costing the country £63 billion a year, according to a report on skills shortages published in August 2018 by the Edge Foundation in collaboration with lobby group Tech UK.

Imperial said the degree has been developed in partnership with the online education platform, Coursera, and it will teach students in the computational, mathematical and statistical foundations of machine learning.

Those taking the course will have the chance to work with industry-standard tools like PySpark and PyTorch to develop and apply their machine learning and data science skills. More details about the course and its makeup will be detailed over the coming year, according to the university.

Professor Niall Adams, one of the course leaders, said: "The degree integrates training in ethics and the limitations of machine learning in order to equip the data scientists and machine learning specialists we train with the skills to ethically apply these techniques to their future work. 

"This is a rigorous programme with a deep focus on the foundations of machine learning; applicants should have an undergraduate degree in a subject such as computer science, mathematics, statistics, economics, or physics."

Retail’s digital and technological talent shortage was a key subject during panel debates and presentations at RW Live, which ran in London on 27-28 March.

Adam Warne, CIO of online retailer N Brown Group, said that one way his company is looking to access digital talent is through investing in initiatives such as Code Nation, which claims to help people learn to code – “from scratch to nearly graduate level” – in just 12 weeks.

Commenting further on how retailers and businesses can help shape the relevant workforce of the future and encourage a diverse range of people to develop suitable skills, Warne said: “We have to get into schools and start influencing them before they’ve even started thinking about their careers.”