computerA new Oxford University centre will train the next generation of cyber security researchers. David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science, announced today that Oxford would receive £3.65m to establish a Centre for Doctoral Training in Cyber Security.

Oxford’s Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) is built on the principle that effective cyber security needs to be inter-disciplinary, drawing not just on the best available computer science, but also on a range of human and social sciences, as well as business, law, and international relations. Its research themes will encourage graduates to study themes such as the security of ‘Big Data’, effective systems verification and assurance, real-time security, and security issues related to the integration of digital and physical environments.

The Centre is part of a £7.5 million investment, with £2.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of the RCUK Global Uncertainties Programme and £5 million from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as part of its work in the National Cyber Security Programme.

David Willetts said: ‘Businesses are facing more cyber-attacks than ever before, putting their confidential information and intellectual property at risk. We must do everything we can to tackle this threat and make them less vulnerable. These new Centres will produce a new generation of cyber security specialists, able to use their skills and research expertise to improve cyber security and drive growth.’

Students’ academic study will be interspersed with ‘deep dive days’ when they will gain first-hand experience from users in industry and government about the cyber security challenges they face in their everyday work. They will also learn business, teamwork, and entrepreneurial skills, as well as undertaking their own cyber security awareness and education projects within the University and schools.

Dr Andrew Martin of Oxford University’s Department of Computer Science, who will lead the Oxford CDT, said: ‘We have been building a wide inter-disciplinary collaboration to address the challenges of cyber security. The CDT team will not draw from just the technical perspective, but also disciplines such as social science, business, and strategic studies. Mixing these with practitioner experiences from business and government, the students will gain a unique insight into the context of their work, and undertake research that makes a real, long-lasting contribution.’

Funding from EPSRC and the University will allow the CDT to offer twelve full scholarships per year, for three years in the first instance. Students will sit together during their first year, and receive an intensive programme of education in computer science, cyber security, law, business, ethics, international relations, and research methods. They will undertake short projects and internships with relevant companies before proceeding to three years of intensive research on a personal project. Upon successful completion, they will be awarded a DPhil.

The Centre will be housed in the Robert Hooke building on Parks Road, adjacent to the University museum, which is being refurbished to provide purpose-built accommodation for some of Oxford’s Cyber Security research.

The new grant was awarded by EPSRC through a competitive process, with bids from across the UK. Oxford was one of two successful, and will work with the other – at Royal Holloway University of London – to expand the horizons of its students.

Oxford has been in the forefront of developing an interdisciplinary approach to cyber security, uniting world-leading researchers from several Departments in its Cyber Security Centre, which launched in March 2012, and was awarded the status of an Academic Centre of Excellence in Cyber Security Research by GCHQ and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). It was also announced last month that Oxford will host the Government’s Global Centre for Cyber Security Capacity Building which is to be based at the Oxford Martin School.