GCHQ has given its official backing to six universities that teach courses specialising in cyber security, as part of the government’s attempt to ensure the UK can protect itself from ever-increasing cyber threats.
Four universities have achieved fully certified status, with each offering slightly different courses, as listed below:
- Edinburgh Napier University – MSc in Advanced Security and Digital Forensics
- Lancaster University – MSc in Cyber Security
- University of Oxford – MSc in Software and Systems Security
- Royal Holloway, University of London – MSc in Information Security
Furthermore, two universities have achieved provisional certified status. They are Cranfield University, which will offer an MSc in Cyber Defence and Information Assurance, and University of Surrey, offering an MSc in Information Security.
The different accreditation types refer to when the courses began and when the first students completed the courses, with provisional courses only beginning in 2013.
Achieving the approvals means the courses have met the critera set by GCHQ, industry and academia about what is required for the teaching of cyber security, in various forms, and the hope is to have as many university courses approved. Other universities will be able to apply for approval towards the end of 2014.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced the accreditations for the universities during a visit to GCHQ, in which he noted the importance of ensuring the organisation was able to recruit the brightest and best in cyber security.
"We want to make the UK one of the safest places in the world to do business online," he said. "Through the excellent work of GCHQ, in partnership with other government departments, the private sector and academia, we are able to counter threats and ensure together we are stronger and more aware."
BT gave its backing to the courses, with Mark Hughes, president of BT Security, noting that ensuring skilled graduates were being turned out by UK universities was vital for it and the UK as a whole.
"At BT we are acutely aware of the impact of the UK cyber skills gap and recruiting the right people with the right knowledge and skills is a big deal for us. That is why we welcome GCHQ's certification of Master's degrees in Cyber Security," he said.
"The fact that GCHQ recognises these courses as high calibre gives us, at BT, the confidence that those graduating with a Master's from one of these universities will have the sound knowledge base in cyber security that we would be looking for."
The cost of the potential threat from various cyber security issues has been pegged at a whopping £266bn globally, and with numerous high-profile hacking incidents affecting nations and major companies, the need for skilled cyber defenders is vital.
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