A major new development at Lancaster University will see the creation of cutting-edge education and training facilities for the next generation of cyber security specialists.
The development – supported by a £4m grant from the Office for Students (OfS) – will be designed to specifically focus on subjects of strategic importance that underpin cyber security.
The facilities will be central to Lancaster’s flagship Data Cyber Quarter and consist of eight specialist laboratories and a semi-immersive decision theatre. The University’s iconic InfoLab building – instantly recognisable for its green and orange façade visible from the M6 motorway – will be upgraded as part of the project.
This investment will create one of the largest educational facilities of this type in the country and will support education offerings in underpinning technologies through BSc degrees in Computer Science, Cyber Security and Data Science, Masters courses in Data Science and Cyber Security, a Cyber Leaders Executive MBA, and professional training and reskilling.
Vice Chancellor Professor Andy Schofield said: “This addition to the Data Cyber Quarter will provide us with the cutting-edge training facilities needed to continue our journey as one of the leading UK institutions for cyber security teaching and research – as well as providing opportunities to develop exciting new partnerships with external organisations co-locating on site.
“We are very grateful to the OfS for this new funding that will transform our educational capacity for cyber security and the subjects that underpin this critical domain. This will help us deliver the talent pipeline needed to support the unprecedented growth in regional and national demand for experts in this field.”
The highly customisable physical and digital laboratory environments will enhance the student experience. A sector-leading, semi-immersive Decision Theatre will enable students, tutors, researchers, policy makers and engineers to explore complex problems using imaginative on-screen data visualisations, with real-time updates from cyber and physical systems.
Professor Nigel Davies, Head of the School of Computing and Communications, added: “Computer Science and Cyber Security are thriving at Lancaster and this investment will help support continued growth in these crucial areas, while enabling us to further enhance the student experience.”
The plans support the launch of Security and Protection Science at Lancaster, a major new £19m initiative to boost the University’s teaching and research capabilities around cyber security including recruitment of over 30 new academics across a variety of disciplines to focus on digital threats and support major national cyber security initiatives in the North West.
In addition to undergraduate and postgraduate students, the facilities will also allow Lancaster to offer support to national and regional industry partners looking for specialist facilities to ensure their staff’s skills are able to meet the challenges of modern cyber security.
Susan Lapworth, chief executive of the Office for Students, said: “Investing in modern buildings and innovative equipment will help universities and colleges in England prepare students for their future careers. Modern laboratories and state-of-the-art technology mean students learn with the best facilities. Our investment will also increase the provision of short courses that offer flexibility to boost the skills of the workforce.
“Competition for funding was strong, with high quality applications from across the sector. The OfS-funded capital projects will ensure current and future students have a positive experience while studying expensive-to-deliver subjects that are strategically important to society. Taxpayers will feel these benefits too, as our investment will boost local and regional economies and support environmental sustainability.”
Zain Javed, chair of the Lancashire Cyber Alliance, added: “With the opportunities coming online as various national security agencies begin basing themselves in the North West, the need for a healthy skills pipeline of future cyber security professionals is growing daily.
“Lancaster is recognised among the best institutions in the country for its teaching and research in this area and I’m delighted to see the University, supported by the Office for Students, investing heavily in state-of-the-art facilities to ensure students can learn in the best possible environments – using the latest technologies.
“This can only improve the calibre of professionals entering the industry with valuable skills and experience which will stand them in good stead for a long and rewarding career.”
Design work for the new facilities is already underway, with all work set to be completed by November 2023.