GCHQ certifies Masters degrees in cyber security

The certification of six Masters degrees in cyber security has been announced by Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office. This announcement marks another significant step in the development of the UK’s knowledge, skills and capability in all fields of cyber security as part of the National Cyber Security Programme.

The National Cyber Security Strategy recognises education as being absolutely vital to the development of cyber security skills and, earlier in the year, UK universities were invited to submit their cyber security Masters degrees for certification against GCHQ’s stringent criteria for a broad foundation in cyber security.

Partnerships have been key throughout the process with the assessment of applicants based on the expert views of industry, academia, professional bodies, GCHQ and other Government departments.

The six successful Masters degrees were judged to provide well-defined and appropriate content, with all of them delivered to the highest standard.

Francis Maude MP: Minister for the Cabinet Office

Francis Maude MP: Minister for the Cabinet Office

Development of GCHQ-certified Masters degrees will help the successful universities to promote the quality of their courses and assist prospective students in making better informed choices when looking for a highly valued qualification. It also assists employers to differentiate between candidates when employing cyber security staff.

A further call for Masters certification will take place in late 2014 and extend to those degrees focused on critical areas of cyber security such as digital forensics.

Details of certified status for six universities

The six successful universities whose cyber security Masters degrees have been awarded GCHQ-certified status are as follows:

Full certified status
Edinburgh Napier University: Degree – MSc in Advanced Security and Digital Forensics
Lancaster University: Degree – MSc in Cyber Security
University of Oxford: Degree – MSc in Software and Systems Security
Royal Holloway, University of London: Degree – MSc in Information Security

Provisional certified status
Cranfield University: Degree – MSc in Cyber Defence and Information Assurance
University of Surrey: Degree – MSc in Information Security

“Every time I visit GCHQ I see at first-hand the tremendous work being conducted in relation to cyber security,” explained Francis Maude MP. “Cyber security is a crucial part of this Government’s long term plan for the British economy. We want to make the UK one of the safest places in the world to do business online. Through the excellent work of GCHQ in partnership with other Government departments, the private sector and academia we’re able to counter threats and ensure that, together, we’re stronger and more aware.”

Nigel Smart, Professor of Cryptology at the University of Bristol, stated: “I’m delighted to have been appointed as independent chairman of the panel that assessed applications, and am excited that GCHQ has introduced this rigorous standard for judging general cyber security Masters degrees. For the first time, UK universities which become certified will have a means to promote the quality of the cyber security issues they teach.”

Smart also commented: “Over the next few years, as GCHQ certification is applied to more specialised areas of cyber security, I expect the number of UK universities achieving certification of their Masters degrees to increase, thereby helping to raise the overall standard of teaching in cyber security at Masters level.”

Mark Hughes, the President of BT Security, commented: “At BT, we’re acutely aware of the impact of the UK cyber skills gap. Recruiting the right people with the right knowledge and skills is a big deal for us. As a leading Internet service provider we want to employ the very best. That’s why we welcome GCHQ’s certification of Masters degrees in cyber security. The fact that GCHQ recognises these courses as high calibre gives us, at BT, the confidence that those graduating with a Masters from one of these universities will have the sound knowledge base in cyber security we would be looking for. This is a great step forward in developing the cyber specialist of tomorrow.”

Chris Ensor, deputy director for the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance at GCHQ, added: “As the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance, GCHQ recognises the critical role academia plays in developing the UK’s skills and knowledge base. I’d like to congratulate the universities which have been recognised as offering a Masters degree which covers the broad range of subjects that underpin a good understanding of cyber security. I’d also encourage those that didn’t quite make it this time around to reapply in the near future, particularly as we begin to focus on more specialised degrees. Recognition of these degrees is an important first step towards delineating academic Centres of Excellence in cyber security education.”

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