Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 15.33.37With cyber security a top priority for UK Government and the challenge of keeping data safe from theft never far from the headlines, the issue of how to train the next generation of cyber security experts is being addressed by UK Universities. According to Government research (June 2015), the average cost of the most severe online security breaches for big business now starts at £1.46 million – up from £600,000 in 2014.

To improve cyber security teaching and learning the Higher Education Academy (HEA) has been working with the Department for Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) to advise on the distribution of Development Fund grants of up to £80,000 to innovative proposals from higher education providers.

The University of Sunderland is one of the eight UK universities to be awarded a grant, receiving £29,000 for Problem Based Learning (PBL) in cyber security.

Professor Alastair Irons, Professor of Computer Science and HEA Development Fund Project lead for the University of Sunderland said: “We are delighted to be awarded the grant which will allow us to develop our innovative and radically different approach to teaching cyber security through problem based learning.

“We won for a number of reasons – our past experience in developing and evaluating PBL for cyber security teaching and learning, our desire to be innovative and our approach to including students in the learning process.

“The project will take the form of the development of a range of PBL teaching resources, student led workshops, staff development events and a PBL conference on cyber security. We will be working closely with government agencies, businesses and industry in addressing the cyber security skills gap.  The legacy will be a set of resources, better cyber security learning experience for students and more highly skilled graduates who will be able to address the cyber security challenges in society.”

The Problem Based Learning in cyber security project is a consortium of four universities led by the University of Sunderland; the other participating universities are Warwick, Christchurch at Canterbury and Gloucester.

Professor Alastair Irons has research interests in the field of digital forensics, cybercrime and cybersecurity. He also focuses on student assessment and feedback, and has published books on feedback, learning, and teaching issues in computing. Alastair is currently Chair of the BCS Academic Accreditation Committee, serves on the BCS Academy Board and is Chair of the BCS Cybercrime Forensics Special Interest Group. Alastair is currently on the boards of DYNAMO and the North East Fraud Forum and is on the advisory board for Digital Leaders North East. Since 2013 Alastair has been a visiting scholar at the University of Cape Town in South Africa.

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