CIISec, the Chartered Institute of Information Security, has secured funding from the Department of Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) to expand its CyberEPQ programme for the 2023-24 academic year.
The CyberEPQ scheme was set up in 2022 and is the UK’s first and only Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) in cyber security.
It is designed to act as a jumping-off point for young people considering a cyber career, and serves to bridge the gap between GCSE courses in computer science and fully fledged cyber security degrees. The course is Level 3 accredited with City & Guilds, and is worth up to 28 UCAS points.
To date, the programme has been very successful; 68% of the first intake, a third of them girls, achieved A* to B grades in their final examinations.
The new round of government cash – drawn from the £2.6bn fund backing the National Cyber Strategy, will help provide 400 places on the 2023-24 course, with an emphasis on attracting students from diverse or disadvantaged backgrounds.
In particular, CIISec is keen to expand the number of state schools participating in the scheme – students from independent schools made up 31.8% of the first intake, far in excess of the percentage of UK children who receive a private education, which stands at approximately 6%.
“We’re excited to embark on this next phase of the CyberEPQ programme, which promises to play a pivotal role in attracting and nurturing diverse talent in the cyber security industry. The continued support from DSIT and the dedication of our partners and members will be instrumental in achieving these goals,” said CIISec CEO Amanda Finch.
Andy Pape, head of computer science at Thomas Tallis School, a comprehensive in Greenwich, south-east London, added: “In our first year of running the CyberEPQ, we have already seen how beneficial the course has been to our students.
“Students chose a wide variety of essay topics that truly engaged their inquisitiveness. Some of their presentations felt like we were sat in training sessions with cyber security experts. Many are now planning a future in cyber security. I can’t wait to see how our next cohort develops over the course.”
CIISec has also now recruited a dedicated school liaison coordinator to manage and support teachers and students, build stronger relationships with the education sector and encourage more active participation.
Students taking the course study 10 core modules and up to three electives. Current topics include the history of computing and cryptography, cyber crime, incident response management and human aspects of cyber. The course also helps students develop time and project management skills.
For the 2023-24 year, following a review of the course materials, CIISec hopes to evolve the CyberEPQ curriculum to reflect ongoing changes in the world of cyber security, particularly as they relate to hot topics such as the dawn of generative artificial intelligence (AI), both as a tool and a threat, or the coming world of post-quantum threats.
It also opens up the resources available through CIISec, such as advice and guidance from students and academics in the university system, and established security professionals and corporate partners. Students achieving A* to B grades receive a year’s free Accredited Affiliate membership of CIISec, while those achieving C to E grades receive Affiliate membership.