Google David SilverDavid Silver was the main programmer on the AlphaGo team at DeepMind.Google DeepMind

Students at University College London (UCL) are being given the chance to learn under researchers at DeepMind — an artificial intelligence (AI) lab that was acquired by Google in 2014 for £400 million.

Senior staff at DeepMind — based just a few minutes walk from the UCL campus in Bloomsbury — will aim to pass on some of their knowledge to students enrolled on UCL’s machine learning master’s programmes from January 2017.

The course, delivered as part of a module called “Advanced Topics in Machine Learning”, will be overseen by Thore Graepel, who is a research lead at DeepMind and a computer science professor at UCL.

It will focus on areas like deep learning, reinforcement learning, and natural language understanding, DeepMind said.

Professor John Shawe-Taylor, head of UCL Computer Science, said in a statement: “We are extremely excited about this new partnership. The strength of computer science at UCL has been growing rapidly in recent years and now our Masters students will also benefit from superb training provided directly by DeepMind staff. This new partnership in state-of-the-art AI is an excellent example of research-led teaching, for which UCL is renowned.”

Teaching will be provided by the likes of David Silver, who was the main programmer on the AlphaGo team at DeepMind, which created an algorithm that defeated the world’s best Go player last year.

Other DeepMinders signed up to teach at UCL include Hado van Hasselt, Joseph Modayil, Koray Kavukcuoglu, Raia Hadsell, James Martens, Oriol Vinyals, Simon Osindero, Karen Simonyan, Volodymyr Mnih, and Alex Graves.

UCLUniversity College London is less than a mile from DeepMind’s office in London.Pete Spiro/Shutterstock

Demis Hassabis, CEO and cofounder of DeepMind, holds a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from UCL, which is where he met DeepMind cofounder Shane Legg, who gave a rare talk to UCL students on Monday.

Hassabis said in a statement: “DeepMind is proud to work closely with the academic community, supporting PhD students and university courses, sponsoring conferences, and publishing our research openly for others to learn from.

“We hope that this course will offer UCL students a unique opportunity to develop their understanding of deep learning and reinforcement learning at one of the best universities in the world, alongside members of DeepMind.”

Staff at DeepMind also teach students at Oxford University, with the company launching its Deep Learning for Natural Language Processing advanced course at the university’s Department of Computer Science this January.

Some in the academic community are concerned that private companies like DeepMind are poaching the brightest minds from the world’s leading universities, meaning certain areas of research might not receive the attention they deserve.

“We think it’s important for the field that there are as many thriving independent academic institutions as possible,” wrote Hassabis in a blog post on Monday. “That’s why we’re providing sponsorship for several research labs and their PhD students to pursue their own research priorities in whichever way they choose, including the University of Alberta, University of Montreal, University of Amsterdam, Gatsby Unit at UCL, NYU and Oxford, and others.

“We see the links between company research labs and academia as central to the future of AI. By continuing to share talent, expertise and breakthroughs — not just on technical subjects, but also on the broader set of questions around ethics, safety and societal impact — we believe we’ll all make better progress in the development of artificial intelligence and its application for positive social benefit.”