Updated March 27 at 9:27am

Study: Higher education fails to prepare leaders for cyber threats


NEWPORT – Colleges and universities in the United States are failing to prepare the next generation of leaders for the upcoming age of cyber threats, according to a new study from Salve University’s Pell Center.

The study – “One Leader at a Time: The Failure to Educate Future Leaders for an Age of Persistent Cyber Threat” – was compiled by Pell Center Fellow Francesca Spidalieri.

The report details the “failing of America’s most prestigious graduate programs to prepare their graduations – and ultimately the nation – for leadership of critical institutions,” said a Salve release.

Cyber threats have the potential to undo all the economic, social and military advances enabled by technology and the Internet,” according to a Salve release, which stated: “Ultimately, these threats can touch, if not harm, every institution in American society – from the U.S. government to banks and hospital, universities, corporations and more.”

“Yet the training of America’s next generation of leaders has, on balance, remained remarkably unconnected to the challenges of this century,” said the Salve release.

In researching the report, Spidalieri surveyed 70 top-ranked master’s-level programs in business, law, public affairs, public policy, international relations, criminal justice, and healthcare management and found that not one of the programs reviewed included any sort of cybersecurity education in their curricula.

Of the 70 programs Spidalieri surveyed, only 10 clustered among five universities scored 3.0 or higher on a four-point scale to assess the exposure their students receive to cybersecurity issues.

“Ultimately, achieving cybersecurity is more than a technical problem,” Spidalieri, who studies the issue for the Pell Center, said in prepared remarks. “It is an operational problem, and only the leaders of institutions have the authority necessary to implement the fundamental, overarching policies that can begin to address some of these threats.”

According to a release, the report is based on the premise that, although institutional leaders do not need specific training in engineering or programming, they must be equipped with a “deep understanding of the cyber context” in order to harness the right tools, strategies, people and training to respond to rapidly-developing threats.

“Generally speaking, most institutions in our society are run by individuals who lack any kind of training in cybersecurity. These executives earned their degree in fields primarily relevant to their work, appropriately, and not in computer network security,” Pell Center Director Jim Ludes said in prepared remarks. “As a result, the pillars of our society—our universities, our hospitals, our local governments, our courts, and many of our businesses—are often led by individuals with an extremely limited exposure to cyber issues, except that offered through bitter experience.”

Although the report says that some American universities have started to develop new content for cybersecurity education, it also uncovered an imbalance between the need for leaders with a basic knowledge of the Web and the marginal role that cybersecurity plays in most graduate programs.”

“America’s future security hinges on its ability to prepare leaders for the challenges of the digital age. Our universities have to be part of the solution,” added Ludes.

To view a full copy of the report, visit: www.salve.edu/pellcenter.


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