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Real world-based practical training of students attractive to industry

UNIVERSITY NEWS LAST UPDATED : 15 SEPTEMBER 2011

Recently, Foreign Secretary William Hague said that the UK is working to set up a new Geneva-style convention to govern cyberspace similar to the way rules have been established for the traditional battlefield. This puts into perspective the seriousness of the information security challenge.

Undoubtedly, technical skills are imperative to managing information security, and all university programmes provide these to students. However, given the rapidly evolving nature of security threats, the emphasis on practical training must increase.

“Company recruitment schemes reflect this need too. They want graduate joiners to hit the ground running,” says Ron Austin, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Technology, Engineering and the Environment, Birmingham City University.

Students must be taught to think out of the box. Their training must go beyond the technical ability to build, configure and secure networks. They must have the capability to quickly interpret and understand the types of attacks they are facing to effectively put in place measures to mitigate their impact.”

A key component of the Birmingham City University’s BSc (Hons) Computer Networks and Security course is a rigorous practical exercise. Students are divided into two groups – one is tasked with building, configuring and securing a network and the other to attack it and vice versa. “This puts their technical skills into context while imparting equally important team-work, communication, strategy and policy development skills,” explains Austin.

“Our students successfully secure placements in graduate schemes of many reputed companies because their practical abilities have been put to the test, among other things. Last year, Birmingham City University placed the largest number of students compared to any other university at Cisco,” adds Austin.

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