Bletchley Park—the home of codebreakers whose pioneering work helped Britain and its allies win the Second World War—could be the site for a College of National Security, with plans for it to open in 2018.
The new sixth-form boarding school will, we’re told, be run by a private non-profit consortium of tech firms, venture capitalists, and entrepreneurs, with rumoured input from GCHQ. It will enrol 500 teenagers (aged 16 to 19) who will be taught cybersecurity skills—which could, it’s hoped, go some way to addressing the shortfall in UK talent.
The outfit behind the college, which would apparently be free for its pupils to attend, says at least part of the syllabus would be set by infosec experts focusing mostly on cybersecurity (roughly 40 percent of the curriculum), with additional modules on maths, computer science, economics, and physics also taught over a three-year period of study. Applicants won’t be selected on the basis of specific academic qualifications, so much as through aptitude tests set by the college, or even on the basis of previously demonstrated skills, such as self-taught coding.
The initiative is being funded and run by a group called Qufaro, whose members include Cyber Security Challenge UK, The National Museum of Computing, the Institute of Information Security Professionals, Raytheon, and BT Security. It will be certified by City and Guilds, a major provider of vocational qualifications. Qufaro chair Alastair MacWilson described the state of the UK’s current IT education as “complex, disconnected, and incomplete, putting us at risk of losing a whole generation of critical talent.” He added:
For those interested in forging a career in cyber, the current pathway is filled with excellent but disparate initiatives—each playing a vital role without offering a truly unified ecosystem of learning and support.
By connecting what already exists and filling the gaps, Qufaro will make it easier for budding professionals to grow their cyber security skills at every stage of their journey, and contribute more to the sector as a result.
The college plans to open in G-Block, one of the largest wartime buildings that still stands on the grounds of the Buckinghamshire stately home, once much-needed upgrades and refurbishments—costing an estimated £5 million—have been completed. However, while they share space on the same site, the new college has nothing to do with the Bletchley Park museum, a representative for the trust told Ars.
G-Block was notable for dealing with German secret service material during WWII.
A GCHQ spokesperson declined to say how much involvement it had with the planned cyberschool.
He said the UK’s eavesdropping nerve centre “welcomes initiatives that promote and develop skills in cybersecurity,” adding: “The concept of a sixth form college is interesting, especially if it can provide a pathway for talented students from schools that are not able to provide the support they need. We wish Qufaro well in the endeavour.”
MacWilson estimates that there’s a shortage of about 700,000 cybersecurity professionals in Europe at present, and wants the new college to make headway in addressing the issue. It’s been reported that Qufaro has applied to the department for education for state funding, but if it can’t secure any, the college will be funded privately.
One of its key objectives will be to try to “address the historical under-representation of girls studying STEM subjects” with the plan to enrol at least a third of female students.
This post originated on Ars Technica UK