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Cyber teaching growing in the UK, but needs to be more practical

Cyber sector news

09:00 Friday, 12 March 2021

UK Cyber Security Council

The skills gap in the UK cyber industry is widely acknowledged, and the solution lies in part within the UK’s academic community which is tasked with educating new entrants into the industry.

The Department for Media, Culture and Sport (DCMS) report “Identifying the Role of Further and Higher Education in Cyber Security Skills Development” notes that “there is a range of cyber security programmes being offered in HE institutions across England”. Running cyber security courses requires qualified teaching staff, and the report goes on to say that “More research is needed to understand the extent to which FE and HE institutions have difficulties in recruiting and training researchers, lecturers and other staff with expertise in cyber security. However, there is evidence of difficulties in competing with industry to attract people with the required expertise who can teach the subject”.

The academic establishments are, as of March 2021, growing their teams to provide more courses. As at 14 March 2021, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) listed 132 undergraduate courses with “cyber” in the title. To grow this number requires appropriately skilled teaching staff: and on the same day a Google search for cyber lectureships returned 47 options, from entry-level lecturers to professors: a high number give that the DCMS report puts the count of universities in the UK at 109.

The report notes that “the criticism that cyber security courses are too ‘academic’ is reflected in feedback from the various focus groups undertaken during the course of this study” and that “students often find their courses to be too theoretical and not practical enough”; it recommends that educational establishments work with the industry into which they are seeking to feed graduates, in order to establish and address the need more completely.