First GCHQ-certified master’s courses unveiled

The first six master’s degrees in cyber security to be certified by GCHQ have been unveiled

August 1, 2014

The UK’s surveillance agency announced in March that it was to offer official certification for master’s programmes that it felt provided a “general, broad foundation in cyber security”.

Of the six universities with courses deemed to be of an acceptable standard, four have been awarded “full certified status”. These are: Edinburgh Napier University; Lancaster University; University of Oxford; and Royal Holloway, University of London. A further two, Cranfield University and the University of Surrey, have been granted “provisional” certification.

All six programmes were judged to provide “well-defined and appropriate content, delivered to the highest standard”, GCHQ said.

Francis Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, officially announced the certification during a visit to GCHQ in Gloucestershire.

“Cyber security is a crucial part of this government’s long-term plan for the British economy,” 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.”

It is hoped that the accreditation of the university courses, which forms part of a wider National Cyber Security Programme, will “assist prospective students to make better informed choices when looking for a highly valued qualification”. 

“I’d like to congratulate the universities which have been recognised as offering a master’s degree which covers the broad range of subjects that underpin a good understanding of cyber security,” said Chris Ensor, deputy director for the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance at GCHQ. “I’d also encourage those that didn’t quite make it this time around to reapply in the near future, especially as we start to focus on more specialised degrees.”

A further call for master’s certification will take place towards the end of the year, and will be extended to degrees which are focused on critical areas of cyber security such as digital forensics.

The announcement comes as a new analysis of Higher Education Statistics Agency figures by (ISC)2, a membership organisation of around 100,000 information security professionals, found that less than 1 per cent of UK computer science graduates acquire jobs in the cyber security industry.

Adrian Davis, European managing director of (ISC)2, said that with “the acknowledged and well-publicised growth in cyber attacks on business systems, critical infrastructure and individuals PCs”, computing graduates needed to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to overcome them.

“We all need to work harder at sharing insights from the workplace if we expect academia to meet our requirements,” he said. “Industry is often accused of being better at criticising academic standard rather than outlining expectation, particularly in an area so dynamic as computing.”

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