New cybersecurity degree to fill Midlands skills gap

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  • Aston University receives £195k from HEFCE to develop Birmingham’s first undergraduate degree solely dedicated to cybersecurity
  • Government identifies national shortage of cybersecurity experts
  • West Midlands Combined Authority forecasts the highest level of growth for the business, professional an financial services sector

Aston University is to develop a new employer-led undergraduate degree in cybersecurity to address the critical shortage of skilled applicants in the West Midlands.

The BSc Cybersecurity degree is expected to be the first undergraduate course of its kind offered in Birmingham and will launch in October 2019.

Experts from the School of Engineering and Applied Science and triple-accredited Aston Business School will work with staff at a range of top financial services companies to design a relevant curriculum to meet the growing demand for specialist technical skills across the business, professional and financial services (BPFS) sector.

BPFS is one of seven transformational sectors in the West Midlands Combined Authority Strategic Economic Plan which forecasts nearly 48% jobs growth between 2013 and 2030 – the highest level in the sector.

The government has identified a shortage in qualified graduates in the area of cybersecurity, calling it a ‘national vulnerability that must be resolved’ in its National Cybersecurity Strategy.

The new BSc Cybersecurity programme will address this growing skills gap by training students in the identification and mitigation of security threats. Students will gain the necessary technical knowledge and software engineering skills, ensuring that organisations can access highly skilled graduates to keep their business and customers safe.

Development work for the new programme will be aided by a £195,000 grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) towards an estimated total project cost of around £650,000. More than 30 universities and colleges have been awarded a share of £6.1 million to develop new and enhanced higher education courses. Working with employers, the projects will help the projects will help provide the skills needed in the future economy and support the aims of the Industrial Strategy.

Professor Peter Sawyer, Head of Computer Science at Aston University, said: “It’s hard to overstate the importance of cybersecurity to modern businesses, but for the financial services it is critical. A typical financial services company will have a large team of cybersecurity experts responsible for the security of the company’s systems, infrastructure, processes and digital products.

“The industry requires a supply of capable, highly-skilled security experts and the new BSc in Cyber Security to be developed at Aston University, supported by HEFCE Catalyst Funding, will be co-designed in partnership with financial services employers to help meet this demand. The financial services industry is booming in Aston’s home city of Birmingham and this is an exciting development for prospective students wishing to pursue a highly rewarding and challenging career in cyber security.”

Barrie Millet, Head of Group Security at Wesleyan who are working with Aston to develop the course, said: “As cyber security threats continue to develop, it’s really important that we all work towards providing a platform to help identify, nurture and grow the next generation of talent who can play an essential role in managing these ever evolving threats.

“Wesleyan is proud to support Aston University in the development of the next generation of cyber security professionals and doing as much as we can to help reduce the skills gap in this essential sector.”

Professor Madeleine Atkins, HEFCE Chief Executive, said: “We were delighted with the quality of proposals received for this funding call and particularly the impressive levels of engagement between higher education and industry.

“This investment represents important support for the government’s Industrial Strategy. The funding will provide new courses and vital skill developments in key industrial sectors across the country, from which students, the workforce and employers all stand to benefit.