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April 18, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 11:10am

10 UK cyber security degree courses approved by GCHQ

List: Courses from Oxford, Edinburgh Napier and others give a grounding in cyber security.

By Alexander Sword

There are a huge range of cyber security skills required to protect the data and systems of a modern enterprise. Many universities across the UK now offer cyber security courses, but there are all sorts of factors that might guide a budding cyber expert’s decision on which to go.

CBR rounds up ten courses – all of which have been approved by UK intelligence agency GCHQ.


1. Edinburgh Napier University: MSc in Advanced Security and Digital Forensics

Given Full Certification by British intelligence agency GCHQ, the MSc in Advanced Security and Digital Forensics at Edinburgh Napier is available either full-time for a year or as a 2.5 year distance learning course, meaning that it can be undertaken alongside a day job.

Specialisms covered by the course include network security, penetration testing, incident response, malware analysis, cryptography, audit and compliance, and host and mobile digital forensics.

This includes a knowledge of offensive and defensive cyber security, with the digital forensics course providing the skills to conduct computer-related investigations across networks, systems, and other digital devices.

Alongside the course modules, there is a research-based MSc dissertation project, designed to enhance the student’s specialism in one key area.

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For EU students, taught and dissertation modules cost £570 and £350 respectively. For overseas students, these figures are £2204 and £1470 respectively.


2. Lancaster University: MSc in Cyber Security

Students are assessed through a combination of coursework and dissertation. The course is divided into eight disciplines, four dealing with information security. The others cover network and systems security, security and conflict in the digital age, and cybercrime.

The dissertation is on communication and information systems, based on research.

The course combines advanced technical skills with disciplines such as economics, risk management, psychology and social science.

The School of Computing and Communications was ranked 12th amongst the Computer Science Departments in the UK in the most recent assessment.

The course is offered either as a 12-month full-time course or a 24 or 36-month part-time course.

The course costs £8497 for the full-time course or £4,249 per year for the part-time course. Required for the course is a second-class honours degree either in computing or a closely related discipline.

Lancaster University’s course has also received ‘Full Certification’ status from GCHQ.


3. University of Oxford: MSc in Software and Systems Security

Another programme accredited by GCHQ, this course at one of the country’s most prestigious all-round universities teaches principles of architecture, design, management, interoperability and evolution and how to apply them.

It is designed for people in full-time professional employment. Students complete a minimum of ten courses on the programme for between two and four years at a rate of roughly three courses per year.

Each of the short courses is based on a week’s intensive teaching in Oxford. After this there is a six-week assignment for them to complete.

They cover security principles, which cover general security technologies and examine security standards and expectations.
Other courses include secure programming, trusted computing infrastructure, design for security and security risk analysis and management.

As well as courses covering network and cloud security, students can also learn forensics and data security and privacy. In addition, there is a course covering people and security.

Charged per module, the projected total cost of an MSc is £26,540 for EU students and £31,140.


4. Royal Holloway: MSc in Information Security

The Royal Holloway course has also received accreditation by GCHQ, and also offers a full-time one year course or a part-time course over 2 years.

Students are expected to have a Second Class honours degree in a relevant discipline or an equivalent qualification.

The course is divided into three main areas of assessment, with the first being a core element made up of four core modules. Core A involves security management, introduction to cryptography and security mechanisms, network security and computer security.

Core B is the same except with security technologies and secure business architectures instead of the latter two modules.

There is also an options element made up of two optional modules, which delves more deeply into areas such as the law and regulation and specific security questions around for example smart cards or databases.

There is also a longer project, for which the student must acquire and demonstrate understanding of a specific area of information security.

EU students pay £9800 while international students pay £15,800.



5. University of York: MSc in Cyber Security

This course, which received Full Certification status from GCHQ in 2015, is available full-time for a year or part-time over three years.

The course covers identity, trust and reputation, cryptography, network security, malware and intrusion detection, risk management and development of high assurance systems.

It is designed for students who possess a strong computer science, software engineering or information technology background.

The first half of the course consists of taught modules, including a mixture of lectures, problem classes and practical classes, with a built-in personal study time.

The second half of the course sees students undertaking an individual research project under the supervision of a member of staff.

For EU students the cyber security costs £7,000 full-time and £2340 part-time. These figures are £20,100 and £6,700 respectively for overseas students.


6. Cranfield University: Cyber Defence and Information Assurance MSc/PgCert/PgDip

Cranfield’s course has received Provisional Certification status from GCHQ. It is taught through a flexible blend of compulsory residential courses, online Virtual Learning Environment activities and interaction and project-based learning.

There are three components, one of which comprises six compulsory modules, each structured around 18 hours of residential learning, 18 hours of directed study on the VLE and 64 hours of private study.

There are two other larger modules as well as a large research project assessed by dissertation.

The course has an advisory panel with representatives from Fujitsu, mobile operator EE, GSK and the MOD.

Entry requirements are usually an honours degree, 2nd class or above. A 3rd class degree is accepted with three years relevant experience and a pass degree with five years relevant experience.

For home and EU students the MSc part-time, PgDip part-time and PgCert part-time courses cost £11,500, £9800 and £4900 respectively. For overseas students these figures are £11,500, £9800, £4900 respectively.


7. University of Birmingham: MSc in Cyber Security

This programme was given Provisional Certification status by GCHQ in 2015 and the University has been officially established as an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research.

Unlike most of the others on the list, it is available only as a full-time, one-year course. It costs £7,700 to EU students and £19,200 for international students.

The compulsory modules include secure system management, designing secure systems, anonymity, privacy and cybercrime and network security. They also include crytopgraphy and secure programming.

There is a longer summer project where the student works on a topic of their choice with supervision from an academic. These projects cloud include developing software to solve an existing problem in cyber security or investigating and analysing existing designs and solutions.

It has previously featured guest lecturers from big players in the technology industry, including Microsoft, Vodafone, Siemens, IBM and the then-Hewlett Packard.

There is also a range of optional modules including incident management, penetration testing and hardware and embedded system security.


8. University of Southampton: MSc Cyber Security

This degree has received provisional certification from GCHQ and is a twelve-month full-time course.

It is designed as a broadening qualification for computer science graduates, although it is also supposed to appeal to graduates from other disciplines. The normal entry requirement is an upper second-class honours degree or higher or equivalent in computer science or a related discipline.

There are two semesters of taught modules, which include general foundational and implementation skills. Students then also choose from some optional modules to gain knowledge in specific subject areas, covering areas such as biometrics.

The final area of assessment is the MSc dissertation project, which is conducted in conjunction with an industrial partner.

Tuition fees in 2016/17 are £9,000 for EU students and £19,570 for international students.



9. University of Surrey: MSc in Information Security

This course has Provisional Certification from GCHQ. It is available both full and part time.

There are six compulsory modules spanning general information and network security principles and applications, digital forensics, cryptography and security of web and mobile applications.

Optional modules include information Security for Business and Government, Project Management and Business Strategy, skills for dealing with Databases Systems and Cloud Computing.

The dissertation project makes up one third of the programme, starting towards the end of the first semester and completing at the end of the summer. It focuses in depth on a subject at the leading edge of computing.

Full-time fees are £8000 for EU students and £18000 for overseas students, while part-time these figures are £4000 and £9000 respectively.


10. University of Warwick: MSc in MSc in Cyber Security and Management

This course offered at the University of Warwick have achieved provisional certification from GCHQ.

It is aimed at people with a computer science or information technology background who wish to develop a career as a professional or take a leading role in an organisation where the security and protection of information is a priority.

The compulsory modules include security architectures and network defence, cryptosystems and data protection , information risk management and governance, industrial espionage and counterfeiting and digital forensics.

Students also choose three optional modules; these cover cyber intelligence and operations, cyber-physical systems, enterprise cyber security, globalisation and outsourcing, financial analysis and control systems, organisations, people and performance and leadership.

Fees for overseas students are £22,340 and £12,200 for EU students.

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