UCT to offer masters degree in data science

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Staff Reporter
Windhoek

The University of Cape Town (UCT) will be the first university on the continent to offer a degree specifically designed to equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to embrace the technological revolution in the financial services sector.

The Master of Data Science degree with a specialisation in Financial Technology (fintech), combines finance, technology and entrepreneurship.

“By far the largest demand now is for students who have a thorough understanding of finance combined with a mastery of modern data analytics and software development skills. Our students will be able to develop these skills in the two most exciting areas of fintech: machine learning and blockchain technologies,” explained the course convener, Dr Co-Pierre Georg, Senior Lecturer at the African Institute of Financial Markets and Risk Management (AIFMRM) at UCT.

The new degree will be offered in January 2018. Application closes on October 31 this year.
Students in the new UCT degree will master machine-learning methods and be able to develop their own applications using these methods. Over the years, machine learning has given the world self-driving cars, speech recognition, and an improved understanding of the human genome. In the financial services industry, machine learning is used to identify a customer’s credit profile, to identify profitable companies, or to find an optimal investment strategy.

“We started the MSc in Data Science to give students a thorough understanding of the latest methods in statistical learning. This includes the exciting field of machine learning and artificial intelligence. The idea then was to bring together UCT’s ‘best and brightest’ from other departments to design a special degree,” said Associate Professor and head of the department, Francesca Little.

The other topical focus of the degree is the revolutionary new blockchain technology that is behind new cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Blockchain is a broad technology that allows companies to store information in a distributed and cryptographically secured database. This makes it possible to store information in a way that is easily accessible and fully transparent, but completely secure at the same time. Other applications for blockchain technology range from automated supply-chain management over remittance and other payment services, up to health services and insurance.

“We combine all these hard skills from technology and finance and add to them the magic ingredient that makes our degree truly unique: a strong focus on entrepreneurship. Our students will have the skillset to not only work in the financial services sector, but to go out and start their own companies using what they have learned,” said Georg.

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