Artificial intelligence and machine learning expertise on the African continent is set to get a major boost, thanks to prestigious scholarships to be awarded for postgraduate studies in the fields of applied mathematics, statistics, electrical and electronic engineering and computer science at Stellenbosch University (SU).
SU is the first African university to be awarded these scholarships by DeepMind, a London-based world leader in artificial intelligence research and its application in the real world. DeepMind was established in London in 2010 and its DeepMind Scholarships are part of a wider initiative by the company to broaden participation in science and support the wider research ecosystem, including in Africa.
Five scholarships will go to SU students who wish to pursue a two-year MSc in Applied Mathematics or Computer Science or an MEng in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. Three further scholarships will go to SU students who have been accepted to study towards a PhD in Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mathematical Statistics or Statistics.
These scholarships will be available to students from all over sub-Saharan Africa who wish to pursue research related to machine learning, with recipients selected by the University to commence their courses in 2021. The DeepMind Scholarship programme gives talented students from groups currently underrepresented in machine learning, including women, the support that they need to study at leading universities. Fees are paid in full and recipients are provided with guidance and support from DeepMind mentors.
“DeepMind was one of the major sponsors of the Deep Learning Indaba hosted by Stellenbosch University in 2018 and we have been building a relationship with DeepMind ever since," says Willie Brink, Associate Professor of Applied Mathematics and coordinator of the DeepMind Scholarships at SU.
“These scholarships are evidence of both DeepMind and the University's commitment towards growing machine learning and AI expertise in Africa and increasing diversity in these fields. I have seen tremendous talent and passion for machine learning and AI research from students all across our continent and we look forward to welcoming the DeepMind Scholarship recipients to postgraduate studies at Stellenbosch University."
According to Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of SU, the DeepMind Scholarship Programme will help the University to cement its reputation as a world-class institution.
“This is an endorsement of the quality of SU's offering on machine learning and artificial intelligence. I have no doubt that these scholarships will help us deliver sought-after graduates equipped to help our country, our continent and the rest of the world meet future challenges."
“I'm absolutely delighted to announce DeepMind's first scholarship programme on the African continent. Despite the wealth of talented students in Africa, relatively few pursue advanced study or research-focused careers in AI and machine learning. To ensure that AI is a technology of global benefit, increasing African participation is vital," says Obum Ekeke, University Relations and Education Lead at DeepMind.
“In addition to financial support, scholarship recipients will have opportunities to attend global conferences and industry events and learn directly from mentors within DeepMind. In doing so, we hope to complement the brilliant efforts of the Deep Learning Indaba and others to create lasting connections and support the development of machine learning and artificial intelligence across Africa. We look forward to welcoming the first cohort of DeepMind scholars at Stellenbosch University very soon."