£8m grant for university cyber security schools

By Graeme Burton
23 Jul 2012 View Comments
Student using a laptop in a lecture

The UK government is to provide £8m in grant funding for two universities to build dedicated Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs), that will train postgraduates in computer security.

The bid process is being led by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC).

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The centres are intended to improve the UK's academic and practical capabilities across all aspects of cyber security, and will form part of the UK government's National Cyber Security Programme.

The EPSRC's call for bids is part of a joint approach to the National Cyber Security programme between the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, EPSRC, the government communications organisation GCHQ, and the Office of Cyber Security and Information Assurance (OCSIA).

"It is vital that we look to discover, develop and nurture the UK's next generation of doctoral-level cyber security experts," said David Willetts, minister for universities and skills. "The Centres for Doctoral Training are a key component of achieving the skills blend the UK needs, and I would like to encourage novel responses to the call that reflect well on the innovation of the discipline as a whole."

Cyber security research encompasses a range of challenges to which many academic disciplines can contribute. EPSRC wants proposals for the centres to focus all or most of their effort on one of two research domains. These are set out in the call document, and, while technological issues are paramount, some consideration of the "human element" to cyber security will also be expected.

"The centres will be required to address the broad range of issues involved in cyber security, from the technical to sociological. They will have to call on a wide range of expertise and deliver the multi-disciplinary training we need to underpin the work of the UK's next generation cyber security experts," said David Delpy, chief executive of EPSRC.

The students' doctoral training will last four years and will comprise a mixture of masters-level education in a range of subjects addressing key areas of relevance to cyber security, and a related original research project. The first cohort of students in each CDT is expected to start around in autumn 2013.

The CDTs will be provided with £8m in funding over seven years and will come from a variety of sources, including the National Cyber Security Programme. EPSRC will oversee the management of the centres.

The news coincides with withering criticism over UK cyber security delivered by the government's former deputy CIO, Bill McCluggage. He claimed that government response to cyber threats was threatened by inertia and an unwillingness by civil servants to take the smallest, calculated risk.

"Nobody in government will reward people for taking a risk. Any estimate could be applied to what HMRC had to invest [after it lost the child benefit data]. Certainly hundreds of millions of pounds of investment went into training alone, and the chairman resigned," said McCluggage.

"So where is the incentive for an organisation to move and act quickly, and take risks, in the public sector?"

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