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UK universities recognised for excellence in cyber security education

25 January 2021

EIGHT TRAILBLAZING universities have become the first in the UK to gain recognition for their commitment to cyber security education in a new initiative devised by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

The pioneering institutions have been recognised as the country’s first Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Education (ACEs-CSE) for delivering first-rate cyber security education on campus and promoting cyber skills in their community.

Examples of activities undertaken by these successful institutions have ranged from offering short ‘Cyber 101’ courses for new students through to designing a course to help military leavers learn valuable cyber skills.

The ACE-CSE programme, which is orchestrated by the NCSC – itself a part of GCHQ – and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has recognised eight universities with Gold and Silver awards. The next round of applications opens early next year.

Chris Ensor, the NCSC’s deputy director for cyber growth, said: “I’m delighted we can now recognise the first tranche of universities as Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Education, complementing our existing programmes which recognise high quality cyber security research and degree courses. It’s a testament to the continual efforts of academics, support staff and senior management that cyber security remains high on their agenda.”

Ensor added: “We very much look forward to working with them over the coming years and strongly encourage other universities to work towards achieving this ACE-CSE recognition in the future.”

Gold and Silver accolades

Seven universities received Gold awards in this first round of applications for demonstrating impressive approaches to promoting cyber security excellence. They are Abertay University, Lancaster University, the University of Southampton, the University of South Wales, the University of Surrey, the University of Warwick and the University of the West of England. Edinburgh Napier University was successful in being recognised with a Silver award due to its ambitious vision for delivering cyber security education.

Each of the successful Gold centres demonstrated they offer at least one NCSC-certified degree, deliver top cyber security training to staff and students from other specialisms within the university, work to improve the institution’s cyber resilience and carry out local outreach activities.

Digital Infrastructure Minister Matt Warman observed: “The UK has some of the brightest minds in the world working in tech and it’s only right that we celebrate those universities where so many people develop relevant and cutting-edge skills. We continue to work closely with academia to nurture the next generation of cyber security talent.”

Offering a NCSC-certified degree is necessary for receiving ACE-CSE recognition, as it demonstrates that an institution is already providing a high standard of education to students enrolled in cyber security disciplines.

However, successful ACE-CSE institutions go beyond this, offering cyber security education opportunities across the whole campus and to those in their wider community.

In the first tranche of award winners, this included giving cyber security classes to those studying subjects such as politics, law and psychology and setting up work experience placements for local schoolchildren.

The next round of applications for ACE-CSE recognition will open in early 2021 to higher education institutions in the UK. More information about the initiative can be found on the NCSC’s website.