Scotland’s reputation as the place to train the cyber spooks of the future has been underlined by the UK’s tech security body.

Two of the nation’s universities have been named Academic Centres of Excellence in Cyber Security Education (ACE-CSE) for delivering first-rate cyber security education on campus and promoting cyber skills in the community.

Abertay in Dundee and Edinburgh Napier were recognised by the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – part of GCHQ – alongside Lancaster, Southampton, South Wales, Surrey, Warwick and the West of England universities.

Abertay is one of seven gold standard ACE-CSEs, recognised for the high quality of teaching, research and outreach work. 

Its plans for the cyberQuarter – a project that has attracted £11.7m of UK and Scottish Government funding through the Tay Cities Region Deal, combined with a £6.5m investment from Abertay – were a key factor in the NCSC award.

The cyberQuarter will bring a new research and development centre to Abertay’s campus, providing a space where industry, academics and students work together on solutions to real-world cyber security problems.

It is also designed to attract existing cyber security firms to Dundee, support the creation of new companies and boost the security and resilience of Scottish businesses.

The NCSC also recognised a range of existing and planned work, including a project to increase female representation in the sector, an initiative to retrain armed forces veterans with cyber skills and a commitment to increase cyber security skills among students and staff.

The ACE-CSE will become the pathway for Abertay students to interact with and benefit from the research and knowledge exchange activities of the cyberQuarter and its business links.

Professor Nigel Seaton, principal of Abertay University, said: “Being named a UK ACE-CSE and the launch of the cyberQuarter project will place the university and the city of Dundee at the heart of Scotland’s cyber security sector. 

“We are confident that by combining academic expertise, student talent, enterprise support and industry knowledge in this way, we have all the ingredients for significant sectoral growth and new job opportunities, as well as innovation in research and business development.” 

Edinburgh Napier University was recognised with the NCSC’s silver award for its ambitious vision. The university already has NCSC-certified undergraduate and postgraduate programmes – BEng Cybersecurity and Forensics, and MSc Advanced Security and Digital Forensics – which underlines the value of the qualifications and helps to attract high-quality students from around the world. 

The NCSC accolade will now see cyber security integrated into programmes across the university and greater emphasis being placed on engagement with external stakeholders.

Professor Bill Buchanan, from Edinburgh Napier’s School of Computing, said: “The work of the NCSC is key to the development of excellence in cyber security education and knowledge exchange. These new ACEs will not only work within their own university departments, but also spread cyber security collaboration across their institution. 

“Moreover, they will support a core collaborative foundation around cyber security education and knowledge exchange within each of their geographical areas. This includes working with industry, the public sector, government agencies, colleges, and so on.  “It is hoped that the ACE-CSE will develop as trusted fundamental building blocks for a safe, secure, resilient and enterprising country. The days of silos of knowledge have passed, and we all need to work together and share our knowledge.”