The U.K. Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has certified six cyber security masters degree programmes in the UK, as attacks on the nation continue to become more prevalent and increasingly sophisticated.
Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude announced the accredited universities while visiting GCHQ in Cheltenham today.
GCHQ hailed the accreditations as a "significant step in the development of the UK's knowledge, skills and capability in all fields of cyber security".
The six successful university courses whose cyber security masters degrees have been awarded GCHQ certified status include: 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, University of London, for its MSc in Information Security.
Cranfield University and the University of Surrey have been awarded provisional certification, as their programmes, in Cyber Defence and Information Security respectively, have not yet been running for a full year.
The programmes, designed to create highly-skilled information and cyber security professionals for industry, government and academic sectors, cover the main fields of cyber and information security such as network security, cryptography, information security assurance and risk management, system security, digital forensics, multimedia protection, and privacy enhancing technologies.
"The National Cyber Security Strategy recognises education as key 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," said GCHQ in an announcement.
"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."
Dr Mark Manulis, associate professor at the Department of Computing of the University of Surrey, said: "The need for highly-skilled cyber security experts in the UK cannot be underestimated. There is a major skills gap that needs addressing. Our future economic growth, national security and day-to-day lives depend upon a secure and reliable digital world. Opportunities for graduates in this field are not only growing year-on-year, but offer careers that are exciting, meaningful and challenging.
"With students graduating from a GCHQ-certified course, prospective employers will have the assurance that they possess the practical and theoretical knowledge required to meet the demands of this rapidly evolving sector."
The certification lasts for five years.