MSc in cyber security: GCHQ to approve postgraduate 'degree courses in spying'

Surveillance agency wants to improve quality of courses

GCHQ is to start giving its official stamp of approval to Master’s courses, effectively creating the first certified degrees for spies.

The surveillance agency has sent out a briefing note to universities that offer MSc courses in cybersecurity, asking them to apply for certification by 20 June. Graduates of the selected courses will be able to say they have “successfully completed a GCHQ-certified degree”, it states.

The 39-page document says that the number of cybersecurity-related courses now on offer at institutions across the UK had made it increasingly difficult for students and employers to “assess the quality of the degrees on offer”. It is hoped that the new certification, which is valid for five years before having to be renewed, will remedy this.

The Information Security Group at Royal Holloway, University of London, began offering the first cybersecurity Master’s degree in the UK in 1992. The group’s founding director, Professor Fred Piper, who has now retired, has been helping GCHQ develop the criteria for the new certification.

He told The Independent the agency wanted “to know where to send their people” for the best training in cybersecurity – and the easiest way of doing that was by certifying courses themselves.

A spokesperson for GCHQ confirmed that it would be sending its employees on the certified courses.

“Whilst we will be offering opportunities for GCHQ staff to up-skill through Master’s courses that are successfully certified, we also believe they will have much wider applicability across the public and private sector and encourage other organisations to look for the certification as a mark of quality,” they said.

“We are always looking for suitable recruits but have no intention of ‘monitoring’ the courses for them.

“Our main aim here is to increase the future pool of cybersecurity professionals that are available to both the public and private sector.”

The briefing document says that to gain certification, the Master’s degree must offer a “general, broad foundation in cybersecurity”, including a detailed knowledge of internet threats including “common attacks”, “malicious code” and “adversarial thinking”.

The degrees are part of the Government’s national cybersecurity strategy, which has the stated aim “for the UK in 2015 to derive huge economic and social value from a vibrant, resilient and  secure cyberspace”.

There are currently two centres for doctoral training in cybersecurity at the University of Oxford and Royal Holloway. The first group of students started in October 2013 but are not due to gain their PhDs until 2017.

Chris Ensor, deputy director for the National Technical Authority for Information Assurance, the information-security arm of GCHQ, said GCHQ has already sent some employees into schools to help them get pupils interested in maths, but that they could  do more.

“We’re a highly technical organisation with a highly technical workforce, so we depend on the young talent coming through all the way from schools to apprenticeships, degrees,” he said. “If that isn’t delivering what we need, then we have to do a lot more. If we get the talent pipeline to deliver what we need... then we all benefit.”

News
Alan Bennett has criticised the “repellent” reality shows which dominate our screens
tvBut he does like Stewart Lee
Life and Style
The Google Doodle celebrating the start of the first day of autumn, 2014.
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Ed Stoppard as her manager Brian Epstein
tvCilla Episode 2 review: Grit under the glamour in part two of biopic series starring Sheridan Smith
Sport
David Moyes and Louis van Gaal
football
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Life and Style
Vote with your wallet: the app can help shoppers feel more informed about items on sale
lifeNew app reveals political leanings of food companies
News
Former Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin, left, with her daughter, Bristol
newsShe's 'proud' of eldest daughter, who 'punched host in the face'
Sport
New Zealand fly-half Aaron Cruden pictured in The Zookeeper's Son on a late-night drinking session
rugby
Arts and Entertainment
Salmond told a Scottish television chat show in 2001that he would also sit in front of a mirror and say things like,
tvCelebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Life and Style
Carol O'Brien, whose son Rob suffered many years of depression
healthOne mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of Dark Side of the Moon
musicCan 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition? See for yourself
Life and Style
food + drink
News
Rob Merrick's Lobby Journalists were playing Ed Balls' Labour Party MPs. The match is an annual event which takes place ahead of the opening of the party conference
newsRob Merrick insistes 'Ed will be hurting much more than me'
News
A cabin crew member photographed the devastation after one flight
news
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

High Level Teaching Assistant (HTLA)

£70 - £90 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Higher Level Teaching Assist...

Teaching Assistant

£50 - £80 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Randstad Education is the UK...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Day In a Page

Secret politics of the weekly shop

The politics of the weekly shop

New app reveals political leanings of food companies
Beam me up, Scottie!

Beam me up, Scottie!

Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

Beware Wet Paint

The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
Sanctuary for the suicidal

Sanctuary for the suicidal

One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits