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The University of Gloucestershire is heading for cyber skills excellence

PUBLISHED: 17:24 19 April 2016 | UPDATED: 17:24 19 April 2016

Professor Kamal Bechkoum, Head of School of Computing and Technology, University of Gloucestershire

Professor Kamal Bechkoum, Head of School of Computing and Technology, University of Gloucestershire

Archant

We speak to Professor Kamal Bechkoum, Head of School of Computing and Technology at the University of Gloucestershire

With GCHQ on its doorstep, along with two of the most respected global security specialists Raytheon and Northrop Grumman, it’s not surprising that the University of Gloucestershire made the logical step last year to secure £3 million of government funding for cyber security infrastructure and training.

The money is being split between the University’s Park Campus in Cheltenham and the Gloucestershire Science and Technology Park being developed at Berkeley Green. It will deliver state-of-the-art equipment including high performance computer and dirty lab facilities. Designs for Berkeley are currently being finalised and the investment should be completed this year. The site will also include space for an incubation unit to enable start-up companies to develop early concepts. Computing and cyber-security are already areas of strength for the University of Gloucestershire according to Professor Kamal Bechkoum, and that’s what attracted him to the region a year ago from the University of Nottingham. “We will make cyber education the key differentiating factor for our students,” he said. “I believe we can make the University of Gloucestershire a world leader in cyber. No other university has so many key world players in this field within a 10 mile radius.” The university plans to team up with GCHQ, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman to build a strong research base at the university. “Within a few years we want to have built up enough strong intellectual capital to attract cyber security talent and students from across the world,” he says.

The university has made a good start. It has strong representation on its commercial cyber board. One board member hacks banks for a living. He is currently is working at 100% success rate. This is what we don’t hear about in the media. A GCHQ spokesperson said: “We’re pleased that the University of Gloucestershire is receiving funding to improve cyber training and facilities locally. This is good news for the area and for the development of cyber skills.” The University’s new cyber curriculum begins this September with new students enrolled on the cyber security and cyber forensics degree course. With the university’s commitment to widening participation, Professor Bechkoum encourages students from all educational backgrounds to apply. “If we think students have the potential, we will invite them onto the course,” he said. To help identify good students the university is working with other higher educational establishments to develop hackathons, where students spend days trying to break through supposedly impenetrable computer systems. The university is also talking to representatives from Estonia, the most connected nation on earth (albeit also one of the smallest) about rolling out an international hacking competition.

Applications for the University of Gloucestershire’s cyber courses have increased by almost 50%.The University of Gloucestershire cyber degree course takes three years. There is a foundation degree through the high apprenticeship programme, which takes two years.

For more information visit www.glos.ac.uk/cyber-for-business

www.glos.ac.uk/faculties-and-schools/computing-and-technology/pages/school-of-computing-and-technology.aspx

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