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May 13, 2016updated 06 Sep 2016 2:08pm

5 cyber security PhD degree programmes from UK universities

List: Looking to deep dive into a cyber security topic? Try these courses from Oxford, Royal Holloway and others.

By Alexander Sword

With cyber security skills being increasingly valued by major employees, a range of cyber security courses have sprung up to train budding cyber experts.

Several universities across the UK now offer cyber security undergraduate and master’s degrees. Many of these will be adequate to take on most of the cyber security demands of a modern enterprise, covering key skills such as cryptography or cloud security.

However, for those looking to undertake further research or develop expertise in a particular area, there are also PhD programmes available from some select universities.

The UK Government’s Cyber Security Strategy that was published in November 2011, called for education providers to”Strengthen postgraduate education to expand the pool of experts with in-depth knowledge of cyber”.

The PhD programmes assume some level of knowledge, so if you are looking for a more broad-brush approach then CBR’s list of GCHQ-approved Masters degrees might be more suitable.

They blend technical skills with skills from other disciplines such as psychology or business to give a more rounded view of cyber security.

CBR rounds up some of the top cyber security doctorate programmes in the UK.

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1. Cyber Security and Software Technology Doctoral Training Programme: De Montford University

De Montford University (DMU), based in the city centre of Leicester, offers a programme led by a team of academics from many disciplines including Psychology, Law, English and Computer Science.

The research programme is driven by more than 700 research students and supported by 500 staff, with three pieces of research produced by DMU featuring in a list of the UK’s top 100 projects that will have a profound impact on the future.

An indicative but not exhaustive list of available modules includes Foundations of Cyber Security, Cyber Threat Intelligence, Cyber Engineering, Professional Practice in Forensics and Security, Approaches to the Study of Wellbeing, Cyber Law and Ethics and Research Methods.

Students have at least two supervisors, sometimes three.

Applicants can study full-time for a typical period of between three and four years, or part time, which lasts between 56 and 66 months.

Admissions take place on 1 October, 1 January and 1 April. The university normally expects candidates to have a bachelor’s degree with first or upper second-class Honours, and/or a distinction at Master’s level.


2. PhD in Cyber Security: Queen’s University Belfast

The four-year full-time PhD in Cyber Security, at the university’s Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), saw its first cohort start in September 2015.

Modules taught on the course include Applied Cryptography, Computer Forensics, Ethical & Legal Issues in Cyber Security, Malware, Network Security and Monitoring, Software Assurance, Advanced Intelligent Information Systems and Media Security.

The Queen’s University’s School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, which runs the course, has an academic staff of over 70 with 250 students doing PhD and Master’s programmes.

Students entering the programme will normally require a 2.1 BSc/BEng in Computer Science, Electrical and Electronic Engineering, or a maths-based engineering or physical science degree or equivalent qualification.

CSIT has been accredited an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research by GCHQ. The centre has worked with Infosys, Cisco, IBM, Thales, BAE Systems, McAfee, Roke, and Altera.


3. DPhil in Cyber Security: Oxford

Taking place at the university’s EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training, this four-year doctoral programme looks at cyber security from the perspectives of computer science, social science, business and international relations.

Core research themes are cyber-physical security, real-time security, assurance and big data security.

The first year is spent in a group with other students embarking on an intensive study programme to introduce the “dimensions and nature of the challenge of cyber security from a range of academic perspectives.”

This includes as a core systems and operations, usability, security risk management, system architectures and high-integrity systems engineering.

The summer of the first year is spent undertaking two mini projects in diverse areas, usually involving placement in a company or government organisation, one of which will form the basis of the main project. These are chosen from a list proposed by supervisors and sponsors.

For the three years of the individual research project, the students retain contact with the CDT, returning for skills training, an annual conference and other events.

Also included in the course are Deep Dive Days, which provide opportunities to interact with cyber security practitioners.
The course considers applications from candidates with undergraduate and masters’ qualifications in disciplines including mathematics, computer science, and electrical and electronic engineering.


4. PhD Professional Doctorate in Information Security: University of East London

The doctorate comprises four core modules making up the first part of the course. These are Information Technology and Internet Law, Research Preparation and Planning, Seizure and Examination of Computer Systems and Understanding the Research Process and Context.

Part 2 of the doctorate involves completing a 40,000 word thesis.

Future start dates for this one-year course are September 2016 and February 2017.

Applicants are expected to have a Masters or equivalent and three years´ professional experience. Other applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis in light of their professional and academic experience.


5. PhD in Information Security: Royal Holloway

The Information Security Group at Royal Holloway runs an research programme on topics including the design and evaluation of cryptographic algorithms and protocols, network security, smart cards, access control, security management, and the integration of security techniques into specific application.

The PhD is research-based, assessed based on a thesis. Students are encouraged to take part in attending relevant seminar series, workshops and study groups in the IS. They are also encouraged to attend international industry conferences.

The programme has supervised almost 100 successful PhD students, with many alumni using the degree as an entry into corporate information security research or academic research and one alumnus now working in the Vodafone R&D team.

The minimum entry requirement for an MPhil or an MPhil leading to a PhD degree is the equivalent of a UK Second Class Honours degree in an appropriate subject. In some cases a Master’s level qualification will also be expected.

The course is available full-time for between three and four years or part-time for four to seven years.

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