Cyber security university courses should be purpose-driven, industry-aligned: report

Australian universities must offer purpose-driven, industry-aligned cyber security courses to better prepare students for a crucially short workforce, according to a discussion paper to be released this week.

UNSW Canberra research student Adam P. Henry’s paper on Master of cyber security programs found that while students were satisfied with their learning, courses often failed to align with the knowledge, skills and abilities required in the workplace.

Universities should partner with industry to help make cyber securities job-ready.
Universities should partner with industry to help make cyber securities job-ready. Photo: Ryan Stuart

The cyber security industry favoured industry experience over formal education, suggesting current education and pedagogical methods weren’t hitting the mark, Mr Henry wrote.

“There is a major gap in the alignment between the education of a student and the hands-on skills required to make them job ready,” he wrote.

“There is wide consensus that a considered multidisciplinary pedagogical focus appropriate to the more complex cyber threat scenarios affecting national public policy is required.”

In Australia, “there is no single university scholar undertaking full-time research into pedagogies and/or public policy for cyber security education”, he wrote, calling for further research into the skills crisis.

” … there is a lack of people, there is no clear understanding of what cyber security means, what a cyber security professional is or how they should be trained,” he said.

Mr Henry has called for a multidisciplinary approach that recognises cyber security as requiring distinctive specialisations, rather than graduating “general practice” students without hands-on experience.

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“This sharpening of focus could then usefully be combined with mission-specific workplace integrated learning programs similar to those in medical education,” he wrote.

“It is fair to say that, in general, the relationship between industry and universities needs to be improved particularly with respect to the development of industry-integrated curricula, as has been argued for a decade.”

A report from the federal government’s Cyber Security Growth Network found Australia struggled to attract and retain cyber security talent with firms citing difficulty in finding job-ready workers despite offering high wages.

“While the skills shortage is affecting the cyber security industry globally, there are signs that the lack of cyber security talent in Australia is among the worst in the world,” that agency said.

Mr Henry will present his findings at UNSW Canberra on Thursday from 11am to 12.30pm in Building 30. RSVP to