Tackling the demand for data skills: MA education

To combat the shortage of graduates with data science and Hadoop skills, SAS has partnered with the University of Stirling to deliver a Masters course in Data Science for Business.

The postgraduate course, the first its kind in Scotland, has been developed in close collaboration with HSBC and The Data Lab, the international research and innovation centre in data science.

The full-time course provides students with a deep understanding of advanced analytics and its application in strategic and operational decision making. The course aims to develop graduates with a highly sought after blend of data analytics, business acumen and advanced management skills.

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“Analytics is becoming more relevant to our everyday lives and there is high demand for data science skills across all sectors. We recognised that there are a lot of courses available that have a strong, technical IT component,” saidDr Kepa Mendibil, course leader, MSc in Data Science at the University of Stirling’s School of Management.

“However, there is a shortage of graduates emerging with the skills to apply the technical aspects of data science and use analytics to make sound business decisions. Through this course, we have focused on the practical challenges that organisations are experiencing by merging disciplines to develop a teaching programme that makes the link between business, management and data analytics.”

“We have worked closely with SAS, The Data Lab and Stirling University to develop a fit-for-purpose Data Science Masters degree,” added Alison McGregor, CEO of HSBC in Scotland: “We have been very involved in defining the programme, delivering guest lectures, supporting student projects and also offering the opportunity to complete extra-curricular activities and networking opportunities at HSBC.”

>See also: UK companies demand more IoT and AI skills in recruits

The course combines three elements and gives postgraduates an opportunity to develop specialist skills in data science through modules covering fundamental areas, such as statistical modelling, statistics and predictive analytics. As part of the Masters programme, students have access to SAS educational material and licensed analytics software, which is used by global organisations to support strategic decision making.

To equip postgraduates with a broad understanding of business, students are also required to study compulsory modules in strategic management and business consultancy.

There is also an opportunity to choose elective modules from finance, marketing, data science and management. As part of the assessment for the course, postgraduates carry out a consultancy project with an external organisation, where they tackle a critical business challenge. Students are assessed on their ability to demonstrate the application of data analytics, evidence of critical thinking and the logic and rationale for their suggested solution.

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“From 2013 to 2020, the big data workforce is expected to grow by around 346,000 according to our research with The Tech Partnership, with demand for these jobs rising by 160 per cent over the same period. A widening skills gap is set to continue into 2026 unless we provide significant investment in skills. The launch of this Masters programme reflects why The University of Stirling Management School has been ranked as one of the top 25 in the UK for business management,” said Laurie Miles, director of analytics, SAS UK & Ireland.

“The unique structure and teaching of the course will develop the next generation of data scientists that can apply data science in a business environment. This is reflected in the appetite we’ve seen from students to study the MSc in Data Science for Business in just the first year of the programme. We’ve also been encouraged by demand from local, national and international companies that have offered postgraduates the opportunity to apply their learnings directly to a consultancy project as part of the course.”

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...