Queen’s University Belfast is helping secure Northern Ireland’s status as a global cyber security hub by offering 40 full scholarships worth over half a million pounds for its specialist Applied Cyber Security MSc programme.
The move, announced at an event held in Belfast this week, is in direct response to the growth of the sector, both in Northern Ireland and globally, over the last few years, and strong demand from industry for more suitably qualified cyber security professionals.
As well as recent graduates, it is aimed at those already in employment who are interested in changing career to work in cyber security and will be carried out through a syllabus informed by the research undertaken at the Centre for Secure Information Technologies (CSIT), the UK’s largest cyber security research centre.
The cyber security sector in Northern is estimated to provide over £70m in annual salaries and commands some of the best rates of compensation, not just in the wider economy but also in the tech industry.
Made up of both indigenous companies and inward investors, its stock has grown in the global cyber security world and Northern Ireland is now known to play host to a cluster of leading-edge companies and individuals working across the private, public and third sector.
As a result, it has wooed a number of big name foreign direct investors over the last few years, such as California-based Imperva. It announced in December that it was setting up a new base in Belfast creating 220 jobs.
Imperva joins other companies operating substantial cyber security bases in Northern Ireland such as Anomali, Black Duck Software, Rapid7 and Proofpoint, all of which help make the region the number one international location for US cyber security development projects, according to the FT’s FDi Markets report.
The announcement was made at the Addressing the Skills Gap event held in The Mac in Belfast on Tuesday night. The panel discussion explored the growing skills gap in the technology sector in Northern Ireland particularly in cyber security but also in software development and data analytics.
Professor Philip Hanna, Director of Education at the School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Queen’s University Belfast, said: “The launch of the 40 scholarships for the Applied Cyber Security MSc at Queen’s comes at an apt time for one of the fastest-growing sectors in Northern Ireland and in the world. Thirst for cyber security talent is strong and will intensify further in the future, so initiatives of this nature are essential to maintain the sector’s vibrancy".
“Cyber security is exciting, fast paced and extremely rewarding and these scholarships will widen its accessibility.”
Dr Karen Rafferty, Head of School, School of Electronics, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Queen’s University Belfast, said: “This is a great example of academia flexing to meet the demands of industry. At Queen’s we’re striving to play our part as a critical pillar in the future of the Northern Ireland economy and these scholarships do just that".
“Cyber security is a sector with huge growth potential in the coming years and Queen’s students will be at the centre of that journey.”
The Applied Cyber Security MSc course itself aims to provide graduates with a comprehensive understanding of cyber security challenges facing industry and society through a syllabus informed by the research undertaken at CSIT at Queen’s. It sits alongside the MSc programmes at Queen’s in Data Analytics and Software Development.