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MRes in Defence Studies


The Masters by Research builds upon the Advanced Command and Staff Course (ACSC) to provide students the opportunity to engage in advanced research, as well as appropriate research training tailored to students' particular research interests.

Through planning, conducting and presenting a major research project, students will be able to develop Masters-level research skills and further their knowledge and understanding of research methodologies. The Mres is a self-guided research programme, supported by extensive supervision and guidance, supplemented by online tuition.

The MRes comprises of  a total of 180 credits as follows:

  • One 30 credit compulsory essay (International Security Studies) & research methodology presentation 

  • One 30 credit compulsory essay (Operational Studies)

  • One 120 credit Portfolio Dissertation  

Learning aims and objectives:

Through the MRes, students can expect to:

  1. Develop an understanding of techniques such as literature searching, research design, the application of appropriate methodological techniques, hypothesis formulation and testing;

  2. Develop an understanding of the theoretical underpinnings of qualitative & quantitative research;

  3. Gain specialised knowledge and understanding of a complex and/or narrowly­ defined problem in the area of study and critical engagement with associated scholarly debates at the forefront of the discipline;

  4. Gain the skills necessary to construct an academic analysis of a significant length showing breadth, sophistication, creativity and where possible originality;

  5. Be able to synthesise complex information and application of knowledge between topics;

  6. Develop the ability to gather, organise, evaluate and interpret information from a variety of sources, including primary material.

Research Themes: 

Students can undertake research in one of the following seven research themes:

Levers of Power | Future Conflict | Innovation and Adaptation | Organisation | People |  Information and Influence | Challenge


Student Testimonials:



The KCL MRes was undoubtedly a personal highlight of ACSC 22. I was in control from the beginning, through execution and into delivery. It was solely down to my effort, determination, analysis and creativity. It took me to the Cabinet Office, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Ministry of Defence, Permanent Joint Headquarters, the Joint Force Headquarters, across academia, as well as commercial and industry elements. 

The MRes programme relied on a strong academic grounding from which to build and develop primary research skills, the analytical capacity to pull it together and make sense of it, as well as the ability to distill simplicity from complexity, develop new ideas and concepts and present them cogently. However, it also developed a strong personal work ethic, independentism, patience and openness to expand one’s cognitive dimension. Moreover, it delivered a like-minded and supportive MRes cohort of peers who worked together, learnt together, struggled together and ultimately delivered together. 

The MRes has stirred a sense of enduring professional military education that will unquestionably lead to further research, education and personal development. I commend it to all who follow in ACSC 23 and beyond.

- MRes Student


A Masters in Research (MRes), like any educational journey, provides an opportunity to develop oneself, however unlike other M level qualifications, the MRes specifically focuses upon research skills.  I found the MRes provided a framework to conduct a detailed analysis of Information Advantage, to provide a greater understanding for myself, but hopefully asking and answering some important questions for Defence. 

As part of the MRes, students are required to submit two blog posts/articles to be published.  I submitted one article to the Wavell room on the changing character of conflict and one to Defence in Depth about the importance of balancing technology with process and people.  Although these were only a small part of the programme, I found these the most beneficial as they provided a sounding board to project some thoughts and analysis, which was importantly critiqued by a wide-ranging audience. 

This had the secondary effect of inclusion into communities of interest and also invites to lectures and seminars, which due to the research I was doing, I was well placed to contribute to.  As this developed further I discovered a real passion for professional military education (PME) and Twitter (although other platforms are available).

- Lt Col Chris Fogarty, MRes Student


During the academic year 2018/19, I was one of the first group of students to take part in the new Masters by Research (MRes) programme run by the Defence Studies Department at King’s College London. I was drawn to the course because I wanted to look at a particular area of interest in more detail than is possible through a Master of Arts. Additionally, the allocation of a subject matter expert as the research supervisor was a critical factor in selecting the programme.

King’s excellent faculty, both in Shrivenham and London, and learning support, not least their online resources, were of significant help throughout the year. Outside of set assignments, the MRes helps to develop your wider knowledge through encouraging you to write more broadly, present your latest thoughts through lightning talks and engage in wider workshops and seminars. This approach also ensures that you are developing competencies well beyond the bounds of the MRes.

Not only has the year been hugely enjoyable, it has enabled me to understand which additional skills are required for further learning. This has been a very positive learning experience that has pushed me beyond my previous experiences and will build a foundation for future study.

- Will McKeran MBE, MRes Student


For more information on the application process please see here.