A focus on artificial intelligence and using data analytics to identify business objectives is part of a new approach to up-skilling and employability at the University of Stirling.

Michael Marra MSP, Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet secretary for education and skills, visited the university to hear more about how Stirling is supporting the up-skilling of the Scottish workforce, providing students with the skills they need to succeed in a constantly evolving workplace.

Mr Marra was shown how the University is putting employability at the centre of the curriculum, through focussed course content, as well as introducing a range of ‘microcredential’ short courses which run part time and are designed to fit around existing employment or daytime responsibilities.

Short courses range from Machine Learning and Work and leadership in the age of Artificial Intelligence, to Project Management, alongside a wider suite of Continuous Professional Development courses across health and social care, and sport.   

The visit comes following a new report from the Lifelong Education Commission, which found that microcredentials can play a key role in helping to plug current and future skills gaps. 

During the visit, Mr Marra met with Dr Kevin Swingler, head of the university’s computing science and maths Division, and Mandy Bath, a graduate of the University’s MSc in Big Data. Mr Marra heard how a focus on applied data analytics can equip students with the understanding and skills to identify business objectives that can be achieved using data analytics, as well as applying the correct methodology to address them.  

The University’s popular short course on machine learning – now in its second year – explores the theory behind machine learning techniques such as regression, decision trees and neural networks, and how to apply these to different kinds of data. Students also learn how to conduct a machine learning project from start to end in a business setting.

From simple sales forecasts to the artificial intelligence behind self-driving cars, data is helping to drive continuous improvement across a range of businesses and services. Data analytics skills are therefore in high demand and support high salaries and career progression.

Mr Marra also toured the university’s recently opened Campus Central development, which provides students with a modern, flexible and supportive studying and learning environment. The £23m space at the heart of campus features vibrant, digitally-connected spaces for socialising and study, as well as shops, cafés and the university’s new student services hub.

Professor Sir Gerry McCormac, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Stirling, said: “Since our foundation, at the University of Stirling we have prided ourselves on delivering education with a purpose. Our microcredential short courses, launched in 2021, are the latest iteration of that mission, offering those in employment the opportunity to master new technical skills and apply these within a professional context. 

“Through innovative models of delivery such as these, we can help Scotland’s workforce prepare for a changing world, equipped with the knowledge and expertise to emerge stronger from the economic legacy of Covid-19.”  

Mandy Bath, who recently completed an MSc in Big Data and currently works as a senior analytical consultant for customer experience management company Merkle UK, said: “Data is increasingly part of our daily lives and can be a powerful tool in supporting any organisation to deliver and develop its core businesses. The practical understanding of data analytics gained as part of my studies at the University of Stirling has given me the insights and understanding necessary to advance my career, and bring fresh, evidence-based perspectives to my work.”

Mr Marra said: “The University of Stirling’s work on employability, particularly via their microcredential short courses, is exceptional. Our university sector is integral to preparing our young people for the economy of the future and, as Stirling is showing, helping our existing workforce upskill. 

“I look forward to watching Stirling’s plans and courses develop over the coming years.”