By Daniel Hunter

The government backed ‘Massive Open Online Course’ (MOOC) to inspire and educate the next generation of cyber security professionals in the UK was launched today (Wednesday).

The free online course has been developed with the Open University and is the first of its kind anywhere in the world to gain government support. The course is for anyone wanting to improve their knowledge and skills and has the potential to reach 200,000 students.

It will help to inspire the next generation of cyber security professionals, ensuring the UK has the knowledge and capability to meet current and future challenges. It will also help to raise awareness of cyber security amongst the general public.

This week sees the largest gathering of world leaders ever to take place in the UK as Wales plays host to the 2014 NATO Summit. The UK’s role in global defence and world business will be on the world stage as international leaders seek to address the full range of threats that we face, including the increasing proliferation of cyber-attacks.

The NATO Summit shines a spotlight on the UK’s thriving defence industry. Government is working closely with the defence sector to secure new investment, creating highly-skilled jobs. The UK cyber security sector alone is worth over £6 billion and employs around 40,000 people.

Cyber Security Minister Ed Vaizey said:

"The government has a vision for a vibrant, resilient and secure cyberspace, contributing to economic prosperity, national security and a strong society. This vision can only become a reality if we have a strong cyber security skills base in the UK, both within government and the private sector. The launch of the cyber security MOOC takes us a step closer to that goal.

"Employers are looking for skilled people in the cyber security field, now and in the future and we’re particularly keen to encourage more young people and women into the profession. It’s vital that we have the people and the skills to ensure the UK remains at the forefront of the information revolution."

The course is funded by the government’s National Cyber Security Programme which aims to improve cyber security skills at all levels and is investing £860 million over 5 years to protect and promote the UK in cyber space.

The Open University has worked with the government to develop the course, which will be available on, a platform which hosts free online courses from a range of UK and international universities.

Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Martin Bean, said:

"For more than 40 years the OU has been offering free access to a whole range of learning materials, giving people the chance to learn new skills anywhere, anytime.

"FutureLearn not only brings together some of the UK’s top universities, but also offers the chance to partner with organisations to deliver skills where they are needed most. This course will combine the expertise of the OU’s leading academics with the insight only the government can offer in this important field."

Tim Hamer, Director of Knowledge at the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) which is supporting the MOOC, said:

"With increasing threats emerging daily, online courses such as this have a vital role to play in raising awareness of the need to improve our cyber security. The course will also help to fill the shortage of skilled cyber security professionals that the UK needs."

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