Data and Artificial Intelligence Ethics (Online Learning) MSc, PgDip, PgCert
Awards: MSc, PgDip, PgCert
Study modes: Full-time, Part-time
Programme website: Data and Artificial Intelligence Ethics (Online Learning)
A new, interdisciplinary degree with the Edinburgh Futures Institute
This programme meets the urgent demand for interdisciplinary skills and knowledge in the ethical design, use and governance of artificial intelligence and other data-intensive technologies.
Today, many organisations and sectors that work with artificial intelligence (AI) and data-intensive applications are missing the distinctive expertise in their technical and policy/governance workforce needed to answer society’s ethical demands for responsible technology use, which increasingly goes beyond mere legal compliance.
Faced with rising public expectations and regulatory demands that new technologies will be applied not just legally, but ethically, all sectors require skilled graduates armed with critical, creative and higher-order data skills. Graduates of this programme will help their future employers to navigate complex new technical systems and roles with transparency, accountability, fairness, justice, and respect for individual and human rights, and in ways aligned with genuine human and social needs.
Our interdisciplinary degree is designed with the University of Edinburgh’s world-leading academic expertise in this area, drawing on philosophy, law, informatics, and science and technology innovation studies (STIS). It leverages the research power and mission of the Futures Institute’s Centre for Technomoral Futures, which promotes sustainable, just and ethical outcomes for artificial intelligence (AI) and data-driven technology.
On this programme you will:
- build the complex cognitive and collaborative skills needed to become knowledgeable and competent in responsible and ethical data and AI development, use and governance
- develop an understanding of the ethical, legal, policy and design values, principles and practices that enable responsible use of data and AI
- gain practical experience working and communicating about AI and data ethics with other stakeholders and practitioners across sectors, disciplines and publics
You will learn how ethical norms and principles map onto the distinctive technical affordances of AI and data science; how ethics intersects with other forms of technology governance such as law, policy, design and professional standards; and how ethics relates to broader political and cultural contestations of algorithmic, corporate and state power and influence. Perhaps most importantly, you will gain practice in working and communicating about AI and data ethics with other stakeholders and practitioners across sectors, disciplines and publics.
Postgraduate study at the Edinburgh Futures Institute
This programme is part of an interconnected portfolio of postgraduate study in the Edinburgh Futures Institute (EFI). EFI supports interdisciplinary teaching, learning and research that is focussed on complex global and social challenges.
Our programmes are all taught by academic experts from many different subject areas. You will develop creative, critical and data-informed thinking that cuts across traditional disciplinary boundaries. You will have the space to think deeply about questions linked to your own passions and professional goals, and will develop a project based on an issue that you care about.
As well as knowledge specific to your area of study, studying at EFI will give you the skills and understanding you need to become a creative, confident and critical citizen in a fast-changing world. These will include:
- core data skills
- data ethics
- the ability to interrogate issues of global scope
- the creative and analytic approaches to knowledge that are vital for building better futures
You can join us regardless of whether you already have skills in the use and application of digital data.
The EFI model (which we call ‘fusion’ teaching) allows you to study on a fully online basis, or to combine online with on-campus study.
Since online and on-campus students study together, and we want to provide flexibility to move from on-campus to online study, we charge the same tuition fee levels for online study as for on-campus study.
For more information, see section on Studying with the Edinburgh Futures Institute.
On this programme you will study the following:
- portfolio of ‘shared core’ courses (40 credits) which teach the essential critical and hands-on data skills, enquiry methods, ethical and creative capacities needed to underpin your programme-based studies
- core courses (20 credits) specific to your programme
- a project (taking the form of a 20-credit ‘integration and project planning’ course, and a 40-credit final project)
- a wide choice of short 10 credit optional courses (60 credits), at least two of which must be on topics related to your programme, with scope to study across the entire EFI portfolio
You will take the following core courses for your programme:
- Data Ethics as a Practice
- Data and AI Ethics, Law and Governance
You will also take the following 10 credit shared core courses, which are compulsory for Edinburgh Futures Institute students on all programmes:
- Interdisciplinary Futures
- Insights through Data or Text Remix (choose one)
- Ethical Data Futures
- Representing Data or Building Near Futures (choose one)
On all of these shared core courses you will be in cross-disciplinary teams with students from other programme areas. You will learn to collect, manage and analyse computational datasets, and to use emerging methodologies for mapping and designing the future. You will also learn the fundamentals of data ethics, and how to use creative skills in the analysis and representation of data-informed and qualitative inquiry.
Edinburgh Futures Institute offers a wide portfolio of about 40-50 optional courses taught by academic staff from across many discipline areas including approximately six to eight courses on topics associated with your programme. The exact courses will vary from year to year – in 2023-24 the courses associated with your programme may include:
- Democracy, Rights and the Rule of Law in the Data-Driven Society
- Translational AI and Data Ethics
- Algorithmic Bias, Fairness and Justice
- Ethics of Robotics and Autonomous Systems
Optional courses from across the wider portfolio will cover a range of themes and topics, such as:
- critical perspectives on how new technologies are changing society
- data, programming and research skills that advance the skills taught in the EFI shared core
- how new and rapidly changing technologies and data sources are transforming the future of democracy
- what the future of education might look like
- how narratives drive the way we understand the world
- bringing service design and service management together to build change in a data-driven society
- current challenges and futures for the creative industries
In your final project, you will be able to apply your learning in depth to a domain, issue or concern which drives you.
It could be based on your own personal or professional interests, defined by your employer, sponsored by one of EFI’s industry, government or community partners, or aligned to one of the our research programmes.
You can submit your final project report as a written piece of work, or combine text with other forms as appropriate – for example, video, visualisation, a digital artefact, performance, code.
You will provisionally identify your project topic relatively early on in the programme, and work on it in parallel with the taught courses. We expect projects to take an interdisciplinary approach which connects with the creative, data and future-oriented nature of the EFI core.
Part-time and full-time options
Full-time students on the programme take these courses in one year. Part-time students take the same courses as full-time students, over either two or three years:
- for the two-year version, you will take 80 credits of courses in year one and 100 credits (including the project) in year two
- for the three-year versions, students take 120 credits of courses over years one and two (with up to 80 credits per year in each year), and then take the project (60 credits) in year three
Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma
You can also study for a Postgraduate Certificate or Postgraduate Diploma.
You will have two years to undertake the Postgraduate Diploma, taking the same taught courses as students on the MSc, but not the project. They will take a total of 120 credits of courses - between 40 and 80 in each year.
You will have one year to undertake the Postgraduate Certificate, taking 60 credits of courses, including between 10 and 40 credits of the EFI ‘shared core’ courses, between 20 and 50 credits of programme-specific courses (either the programme core courses or optional courses), and up to 30 credits from the broader suite of EFI optional courses.
On successful completion of this programme, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and critical understanding of:
- current challenges for the ethical design and use of data-intensive and artificial intelligence technologies
- common principles, practices and methods of applied ethics and how they relate to technology governance tools such as law, policy, and design
- how to identify, analyse, propose and evaluate a range of design and governance interventions that can align AI and data-intensive tools with ethical norms
- how to translate and clearly articulate ethical concepts and framings for multiple audiences and across different domains of data/AI application
- how to lead and work collaboratively with others to produce clear, accessible, and actionable guidance and tools for ethical design and governance of AI and data-intensive technologies
This programme has the potential to fill a substantial skills gap in the existing labour market that is increasingly recognised by institutions; namely, the need for skills of ethical design, development and governance of emerging AI and data-intensive technologies.
Many organisations struggle to manage the ethical risks associated with these technologies, which call for new expertise and skillsets beyond legal compliance or business risk management in the conventional sense.
Depending on your other skillsets (for example in data science, machine learning, health, finance, law, policy or business), completing this degree will lead to expanded career opportunities across the public, private and third sectors, in areas such as:
- trust and safety
- information services and security *responsible innovation
- product management
- regulatory oversight
- non-profit research and advocacy
What does interdisciplinary study mean?
Interdisciplinary study is at the heart of the EFI programmes. It means the ability to synthesise and apply knowledge and skills from across different disciplines, and is crucial to addressing many current complex challenges and planetary-scale issues.
We support you to develop interdisciplinary perspectives in different ways. For example, the EFI shared core courses draw on diverse disciplines to support you to work creatively and ethically with all kinds of data.
Each programme develops interdisciplinary perspectives in the ways most appropriate to their specific domain and focus. And finally – because you will have such wide choice in the optional courses you choose to take in EFI – you will have the flexibility to design your own disciplinary pathway through your studies, integrating your insights and reflecting on their interdisciplinary power through your project-related work.
Flexible study choices
You will have a lot of flexibility in how you choose to study in EFI.
All the core and optional courses offered for this programme, and almost all the broader portfolio of optional courses, are taught in ‘fusion’ mode. This is a distinctive approach which allows you to combine on-campus with online study, and teaches on-campus and online students together as a single cohort.
As a full-time, on-campus student you may choose to study most of your courses on-campus, but you will have some freedom to choose to study online. Please note however that full-time students on study visas have particular attendance and engagement requirements and need to be based entirely on-campus.
If you are considering full-time online study, please note that all courses require significant synchronous engagement in the classroom. Get in touch with us with questions before applying.
You can choose to study on a full-time basis over one year, or part-time over two or three years. You can register for a full MSc, or for a Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate. Part-time students can choose to study either entirely on-campus, online or via a combination of the two.
How you will learn in EFI
The EFI approach to teaching places student experience and choice at its heart and connects global cohorts in new ways.
You will study in teaching spaces and digital learning environments designed to enable on-site/online sharing of teaching and learning activity. Your classes and contributions will be recorded and livestreamed so that they can be shared – and learning communities built – across modes and time-zones.
If studying online you will have a presence in on-site classrooms (via video, audio and text in different forms), and if studying on-campus you will be able to work with diverse teams located across the globe.
All courses require significant synchronous engagement in the classroom. While there may be opportunities to engage in some activities asynchronously from different time zones applicants should be aware of the requirement to join live classes at particular times. Please get in touch with us to discuss your particular circumstances before applying.
All students will have a presence in the digital spaces where teaching happens – video-based classes, real-time collaboration spaces, live chats, asynchronous forums, shared exhibition and blogging spaces and more.
Teaching methods will include:
- group work
- expert lectures both live and livestreamed
- data skills and programming workshops online and on-campus
- on-site and virtual drop-ins
- hybrid seminars
- interactive journal clubs
- external stakeholder challenges and code-alongs
- data visualisation exercises
Apart from the shared core, most EFI courses are delivered in intensive two-day blocks of teaching and learning activity, combined with pre- and post-intensive wraparound activity that will include a range of scheduled and self-directed activities (for example, group project activities, reading, assessment).
These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.
A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in any discipline.
We will also consider your application if you have other professional qualifications or experience; please contact us to check before you apply. In particular, we welcome applications from professionals with experience (e.g. working in companies, government, or third sector organisations) designing or implementing projects, programmes, or policies that aim to diminish inequalities.
Students from China
This degree is Band C.
Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:
English language requirements
You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.
English language tests
We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:
- IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
- TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
- C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
- Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
- PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.
Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.
Degrees taught and assessed in English
We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:
We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).
If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.
Find out more about our language requirements:
- College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences PG Admissions Office
- 57 George Square
- EH8 9JU
This programme is not currently accepting applications. Applications for the next intake usually open in October.
Start date: Under review
Awards: MSc, PgDip, PgCert (12 mth FT, 24-36 mth PT)
We operate a number of selection deadlines. We may make a small number of offers on an ongoing basis, but we will hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline before deciding which applicants to make offers to. If we have not made you an offer by a specific selection deadline this means one of two things:
- your application has been unsuccessful, in which case we will contact you to let you know, or
- your application is still being considered and will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made.
If you are applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.
Deadlines for applicants applying for study in 2023-24 are:
|Round||Application deadline||Places awarded by|
|1||9 February 2023||30 March 2023|
|2||17 April 2023||8 June 2023|
|3||25 July 2023||10 August 2023|
You must submit one reference with your application.
We will decide which applications to offer places to on the basis of:
- educational achievement
- professional experience (where relevant)
- quality of personal statement
Your personal statement should include why you are interested in studying on this particular programme and – if relevant – how it will support your career development.
The Edinburgh Futures Institute provides a space where students can pursue projects on issues they care about, so it would also be helpful (though not essential) if you could indicate the area on which you would most like to focus during your time in EFI.
Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:
Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:
- College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences PG Admissions Office
- 57 George Square
- EH8 9JU