Published On: 6th September 2023

Access Foundation Supports Computer Science Undergraduates

The first cohort of students being supported by The Access Foundation through Aston University have completed their 6-week summer internship at The Access Group with great success.

The students are all studying computer science, and some of them are the first in their family to attend university.

Over the past 6 weeks, the students have taken part in paid internships in the Centre for Data Solutions as Data Scientists, Data Analysts or Data Engineers, gaining vital skills and job experience that will support them throughout their careers in technology.

In 2022, the Foundation awarded a £120,000 grant to Aston University to fund 24 scholarships from 2022-28 for students from disadvantaged backgrounds studying on BSc Computer Science, Computer Science with Business and Cybersecurity degree programmes.

The grant is part of the Foundation’s commitment to bridge the digital divide and ensure the online world is an inclusive space with equal career opportunities for young people, irrespective of community, background and postcode.

Computer Science is one of the most popular degree courses in the UK. Over the last few years, Aston University has seen a significant increase in the number of students choosing to study the subject at undergraduate degree level.

Out of those students qualifying, a quarter are from disadvantaged backgrounds with many being encouraged to study these programmes because of their vocational nature and the University’s reputation for graduate outcomes.

However, despite the increase in popularity of Computer Science at Aston, there remain barriers to student engagement including the increasing cost of Higher Education and living costs, with many students working more than the recommended hours of part time work, often making the decision to save money rather than engage with teaching sessions.

The grant will help to ensure that social inequality does not sustain the barriers these students face when engaging with education, but instead it provides opportunities to the most talented students from disadvantaged backgrounds to obtain undergraduate degrees in Computer Science related subjects no matter their financial circumstances.

The grant helps address the balance for students between studying and earning, which has proven to increase access and retention rates, instead integrating students into university life, forming connections and friendships.

Kerrie Holland, Executive Director, Alumni Relations and Development at Aston University commented:

“We were absolutely delighted to receive this grant from the Access Foundation. At Aston University we are committed to providing opportunities to the most talented of students to succeed in the exciting field of Computer Science and it is important to us that we break down access barriers to such success, especially those imposed by finance.

The award from the Access Foundation will allow more students to enrol and learn with us; it will have such a profound impact on many young lives and by extension those around them. We are delighted to see our first cohorts of students on this programme benefitting from this life-changing scholarship programme.”

Ben Whitehead, Early Career Partners at The Access Group commented:

“It has been an incredibly rewarding experience to be able to work with this enthusiastic and eager to learn group of young people in their first placement. We have watched them grow and gain in confidence over the six weeks.

We hope the skills they have developed will support their time at university and they will be able to relate practical experience here at Access to their classroom learning enabling them to carve out a successful career in the Computer Science industry and beyond.

We wish them all the best in their studies in the coming year and look forward to welcoming them back for their work placement in their final year.”

19-year-old Dilen Shingadia, who is Studying Computer Science at Aston, shared his journey as a Data Scientist Intern at the Access Group.

“This has been a fantastic experience, from day one I’ve been immersed in real life data projects which gives me an insight into the role and what is required from a data scientist.  The internship has supported my growth and learning, and I am extremely grateful for the hands-on experience and opportunity to work and learn with a friendly and supportive team of people.”

Ishfaq Ali also 19 and a student of Computer Science commented:

“This has been an invaluable experience and incredible journey for me. During my time at Access, I have worked alongside bright and talented professionals who encouraged collaboration, innovation and allowed me to stretch my wings. The supportive team and fellow interns have truly boosted my confidence and refined my abilities.

At Access I discovered a welcoming culture of diversity and inclusion and I felt truly at home. I am excited to apply what I've learned to my future endeavours.”