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£7.5m university fund to train cybersecurity experts

The grants of £3.8 million come from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of the government’s UK Cyber Security Strategy (Action 10: “Identify Centres of Excellence in cyber research to locate existing strengths and providing focused investment to address gaps”).

Royal Holloway yesterday announced how it is using the grant. It has established a Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in Cyber Security, and is now seeking 10 candidates for intake over three years. According to EPSRC rules, those candidates will need to demonstrate “a capability to undertake and benefit from research training through to completion, to the standard necessary to qualify for a PhD.” That is, they would normally need to have at least an upper second class degree or equivalent.

The courses are well-funded by the grant, which covers the university fees and provides a tax-free annual stipend £22,590. Students will have to attend a year of courses prior to the three year PhD research program, and will be given a variety of industry placements during its progress.

“While Royal Holloway has operated an excellent graduate school in cyber security for many years,” said Professor Keith Martin, Director of the Information Security Group at Royal Holloway, “a CDT represents a significantly different approach to research training, and we are looking forward to taking on the great responsibility of delivering graduates who will directly benefit the country.”

The university has so far attracted the backing of around 30 organizations from across the security industry, including IBM, McAfee, Thales, Vodafone and Logica. Igor Muttik, principal research architect of McAfee Labs, said that McAfee is “excited to join forces with Royal Holloway in fostering a cohort of new security warriors whose job will be to protect the global computing ecosystem of tomorrow.”

Ross Brewer, managing director and vice president at LogRhythm, commented, “Modern cyber criminals are experts in their own right, so it makes sense to build an army of graduates with the relevant, highly specialist skills needed to combat them. What’s more, as cyber crime continues to evolve, it will be critical to increase the level of intelligence-sharing among these cyber security experts – both in the UK and worldwide – if we are to keep abreast of the rapidly changing tactics and targeting techniques that we are witnessing.”

Paul Davis, VP of Europe at FireEye has also commented:“We have long called for greater education in cyber security – as this is the most effective way to protect the UK from the escalating threat, which is reaching crisis point. The greatest challenge – outside of identifying and stopping advanced attacks – is having trained experts on hand to assist.  Today, such expertise is both costly and rare, which has made these resources a luxury for the vast majority of organisations.  As a result, a government-backed investment in equipping the next generation with the skills and intelligence needed to detect, prevent and analyse these complex malware events, is very welcome news."

Royal Holloway is encouraging potential candidates to make an initial informal approach. “After an initial assessment, qualified and eligible candidates will be invited to submit a formal application through the official channels,” it says.

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