Students develop solutions for real-life defence scenarios for the Ministry of Defence

Categories: School of Arts, Media and Creative Technology

Salford students worked together to present how they would tackle a real-life security threat at the first Hacking for Ministry of Defence showcase last week. 

The nine students on the Hacking for MoD module.

Students from MA Intelligence and Security Studies (MAISS) and MA Terrorism and Security Studies (MATSS) took part in the event on Wednesday 19 April in the Chapman Building where two groups presented the results of their 10-week long research to solve real challenges faced by the defence and security community. 

The event was the culmination of the Hacking for Ministry of Defence (MoD) module in which our students have interviewed and worked alongside people from the MoD and other key stakeholders across the military and private sectors to test hypotheses and get a real insight into the industry. 

Throughout the module, students have rapidly built and solidified multi-transferable skills including communication and teamwork to set them up for post-academic life. This was also strengthened by having a close working relationship with an industry specific mentor, a military mentor and academic mentoring during the module. 

MAISS students Samuel Iyanuoluwa Ajayi, Naila Golamnobee, Mike Knight and MATSS student Oluwabukolami Olatunde-Kamali worked with strategic command sponsors to tackle the identification and development of cyber and electromagnetic skills across MoD. MAISS students Carla Austin, Eleazer Aderibigbe, Joseph Balodis, Yommi Oni and Zunaira Khan worked with their RAF Police sponsor to tackle problems around security clearances. 

The first team presenting their plans.

Mike said: “This module has been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever undertaken but I’ve got a massive sense of achievement from it and would recommend it to anyone. We have been really fortunate to have interacted with those from the military who have engaged us actively from the start and it was a nice touch of them to come up on the day. 

“I already had designs on a career in a closely related field and this course has opened up a wider scope for me of what kind of roles that are out there in defence and also the diversity of people working in the profession.” 

Joseph said: “The day itself was incredibly exciting and I couldn’t be prouder of the team as well as the other team. At times, the project could feel overwhelming and frustrating but once we had good contacts to interview and new information to work with, we were able to come up with amazing ideas. 

“I would recommend this module to anyone as it really takes you away from the classroom and into the field. It has also shown me a multitude of differing career paths to take based on the skills developed throughout the course.” 

Naila said: “We were very excited for the day after all our efforts over the past 10 weeks. Overall, the module was very intense and certainly required determination, discipline and organisation skills. However, it was worth the experience and networking opportunities. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity.” 

Zunaira said: “Working on this for the past 10 weeks as a team has encouraged us more to complete the task. 

“It has been nice to showcase what we have been doing, especially to people in the industry, as it might mean that our work goes somewhere to make change or help people.” 

Salford is the only university in the North West that offers the module to students and the challenges set for student groups are problems that are currently being experienced by MoD officials.

The module is run via the Common Mission Project UK, who work with the MoD to identify and select the scenarios for the students.

Dr Rachael Kelly, Executive Director of Common Mission Project UK (CMP) said: “Spring 2023 was the University of Salford’s first iteration of the ‘Mission Driven Entrepreneurship: Hacking4MoD’ course, powered by Common Mission Project (CMP). Our courses are designed to inspire and equip the next generation to galvanise around critical national problems and change our world for the better. The student teams at Salford exemplified this by developing a deep understanding of their real world security and defence problems and employing fresh perspectives on how to address these.” 

The students worked closely with their problem sponsors in the RAF Police and Strategic Command to tackle their problems. Both teams were expertly supported by their military mentor Lieutenant Commander Chris Oldfield from the Royal Navy.

Whilst senior consultants Liam Cox (Frazer-Nash Consultancy), Cameron Winter (PA Consulting), and Charlotte West (BMNT) provided in-depth support from their expertise and experience from working in private industry. These individuals voluntarily mentored our students with their expertise during their personal time providing them with support, strategies to develop their approaches, and advice on working in and around defence and security problems.   

Commander Bessant,  Strategic Command, and one of the problem sponsors this semester: 

" The group very quickly got to the crux of the problem and as a result have offered a solution that has allowed us to progress far faster than we might have done otherwise. Our ability to understand and manage our workforce will improve considerably because of their work and ultimately, enhance our ability to support Defence and Front Line Commands. It has been a really enjoyable experience working with the team and something I wouldn’t hesitate to do again.” 

Dr Christopher J. Murphy, Senior Lecturer and MAISS Programme Leader said: “Offering the module to students on our MA programmes marks a significant development in our ability to engage with the experience of practitioners in the real world. 

“While simulations can be useful in giving students a sense of reality, this module creates a bridge between industry and academia, allowing our students to offer their take on – and perhaps come up with solutions to – current, real world security issues.” 

Dr Jason Dymydiuk, Lecturer in Security, Intelligence and Terrorism Studies as well as H4MoD module leader added: “Hacking for the Ministry of Defence is a pleasure to teach on due to witnessing the rapid progression of the students. 

“The extent to which the students have developed their research and analytical skills, subject matter expertise and personal growth over the module has been phenomenal. Not only have they built transferable skills, but each now has ‘real-world’ experience of security challenges to demonstrate their transferable skillsets to employers in the future. It is testament to the hard work and commitment to the students.” 


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