CyberEPQ program expansion aims to get more state school pupils into cyber security

A female teacher explaining something to a small group of female students, who are sat around a desk looking at a laptop. All are sat in their school's computer lab.
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The Chartered Institute of Information Security (CIISec) has announced funding for the continuation of its CyberEPQ program, which seeks to offer cyber training opportunities for disadvantaged groups. 

CyberEPQ is the UK’s first and only extended project qualification (EPQ) for cyber security, and gives students the opportunity to pursue training without formal entry requirements.

In the 2023-24 tranche, CIISec aims to enroll a minimum of 400 students across the UK, around three times that of the previous year.

CIISec and the government have committed to enrolling students from state schools in areas of social deprivation, and the number of state schools enrolled in the program has already increased by 56% year-on-year. 

The course comprises ten compulsory modules on topics such as the history of cryptography from Bletchley Park to quantum computing, how security teams use vulnerability assessment to quantify risk, the use cases of identity and access management, and how the Data Protection Act 2018 fits in with GDPR .

It also includes three specialist modules, of which at least one must be completed, which cover the human aspects of cyber crime like social engineering and poor security hygiene, what penetration testing is and how it works, and security architecture.

"In our first year of running the CyberEPQ, we have already seen how beneficial the course has been to our students,” said Andy Pape, Head of Computer Science at Thomas Tallis School.


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“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."

This year, the course also helps educate students about machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI), and CIISec has plans to update the modules to keep the program up-to-date with recent advances such as generative AI.

Improving class, gender, and racial diversity in cyber security has long been identified as a goal for the industry. In July, a government report found only 17% of the cyber workforce is female, a 22% decrease from 2022.

Experts have identified classroom intervention as a tool for fixing the gender bias within STEM, and although the number of girls choosing to study computing at GCSE level was up 10.4% in 2023 it is clear there are still major gaps to address.

University education can also be a barrier depending on the class of applicants, according to research. Coding bootcamps and programs such as CyberEPQ can open doors for those who do not choose the university path to employment.

The government’s July study found that “hiring through non-degree routes” would improve diversity throughout the workforce, with education programs and simulations acting as opportunities for individuals with raw cyber talent and the enthusiasm needed to succeed.

CIISec secured funding from the Department for Science, Innovation, and Technology (DSIT), as a part of the UK government’s £2.6 billion National Cyber Strategy.

“We’re excited to embark on this next phase of the CyberEPQ program, which promises to play a pivotal role in attracting and nurturing diverse talent in the cyber security industry,” said Amanda Finch, CEO of CIISec.

“The continued support from DSIT and the dedication of our partners and members will be instrumental in achieving these goals.”

Rory Bathgate
Features and Multimedia Editor

Rory Bathgate is Features and Multimedia Editor at ITPro, overseeing all in-depth content and case studies. He can also be found co-hosting the ITPro Podcast with Jane McCallion, swapping a keyboard for a microphone to discuss the latest learnings with thought leaders from across the tech sector.

In his free time, Rory enjoys photography, video editing, and good science fiction. After graduating from the University of Kent with a BA in English and American Literature, Rory undertook an MA in Eighteenth-Century Studies at King’s College London. He joined ITPro in 2022 as a graduate, following four years in student journalism. You can contact Rory at or on LinkedIn.