GCHQ certifies six cyber security Master’s degree courses

By Sooraj Shah
01 Aug 2014 View Comments
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GCHQ, the British intelligence agency, has certified six Master's degrees in cyber security as the government bids to close the much-talked about cyber-security skills gap.

According to GCHQ, the development of a certification "will help the successful universities to promote the quality of their courses and assist prospective students to make better informed choices when looking for a highly valued qualification".

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The spy agency also suggested that employers will be able to better differentiate between candidates when employing security staff, as a result of the certification.

Four courses were given full certification: Edinburgh Napier University's MSc in advanced security and digital forensics, Lancaster University's MSc in cyber security, the University of Oxford's MSc in software and systems security and Royal Holloway's MSc in information security.

Cranfield University was given a provisional certified status for its MSc in cyber defence and information assurance, as was the University of Surrey for its MSc in information security.

Education is a key part of the National Cyber Security Strategy, and earlier in the year UK universities were invited to submit their Cyber Security Master's degrees for certification against GCHQ's criteria for what it deems a broad foundation in cyber security.

GCHQ said that partnerships had been key throughout the process, with the assessment of applicants based on the views of industry, academia, professional bodies, GCHQ and other government departments.

The six successful Master's degrees were judged to provide well-defined and appropriate content, delivered to the highest standard.

De Montfort University's (DMU) MSc in cyber security has not been given the same certification. When the course was launched in May 2013, Computing questioned whether the course would be able to attract quality candidates.

But a further call for Master's certification will take place in late 2014, so it could still make the cut, although GCHQ said this would mainly be extended to degrees that are focused on critical areas of cyber security such as digital forensics.

Chris Ensor, deputy director for the national technical authority for information assurance at GCHQ offered his congratulations to the universities and encouraged those that didn't make it this time around to reapply in the near future.

"Recognition of these degrees is an important first step towards recognising Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Education," he said.

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