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PhD programmes


At Defence Studies, we are proud of our thriving body of research students who enhance our research community and culture

Our research degrees draw upon the expertise of a large and multidisciplinary department. Our acknowledged strength in the field of diplomatic and military history is complemented by world-class research into numerous aspects of contemporary and future warfare, such as security and defence policy, strategy, land, air and maritime doctrine and operations, proxy warfare, conflict termination, space power, and the relationship between artificial intelligence, military operations and conflict.

In addition, we offer tremendous expertise across a range of non-military subject areas such as regional and area studies, international security organisations, gender, war and violence, domestic and international terrorism, peacebuilding, political economy, and ethics. Such breadth of research offers our students the intellectual tools to expand and enhance their knowledge and understanding of all aspects of conflict, defence, security, and strategy.

We attract studentships from a variety of sources, including the ESRC and the AHRC, as well as the MacArthur Foundation, the UK Ministry of Defence and the US Department of Defense. We also offer studentships funded directly by the department. Our research students are supported through their affiliation with a number of research groups and themes, which sponsor seminars and provide opportunities for interaction with established researchers.

My advisor has been consistently engaged and attuned to my progress, his guidance for the project has made it more relevant and topical. My experience working with him has been exceptional. I truly appreciate the opportunity to be at King's

Kerry Lynn Nankivell, DSD PhD Student
Finding a supervisor 
Writing a research proposal 
Funding your doctoral studies  

Defence Studies Research MPhil/PhD

The Defence Studies Department’s unique position as an academic department based at the Defence Academy heavily influences its research. Sitting at the heart of security and defence education in the United Kingdom, it is able to draw on the experiences and knowledge of not only UK military officers, but officers from a wide range of allied nations. The Department’s research is therefore able to benefit from and influence defence thinking and policymaking not just in the UK, but across the world.

NMPC post-reg hub main

Finding a supervisor

Before applying for an MPhil/PhD you will need to consider a potential supervisor. Every university, and sometimes different areas within universities, use somewhat different and changing ranking systems for academic positions. The specific people in Defence Studies who are currently at each rank are available for search here

Job title
Available for PhD supervision?

Post-graduate researcher, PGR (PhD)


Teaching Fellow (post-doctoral researcher)



It depends. Check individual pages & PURE profiles

Senior Lecturer






* Please note that anyone listed as “visiting” or “emeritus” is unlikely to be able to supervise PhD students.

Please consult staff members’ academic profiles for more information on their supervisory interests and make contact with them directly regarding your application. Only when you have an agreed supervisor can you progress to make a formal application through the Admissions Office. Even if your topic is related to Defence Studies, you may also find it useful to search for supervisors in other departments, including War Studies, and in other schools within the Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy, such as Global Affairs and Politics and Economics.

Writing a research proposal 

At the heart of your application is your research proposal. The ability to identify and propose a viable research project is a major indicator of your potential for doctoral study.

Email your research proposal (approximately 6 pages) and personal statement to your proposed supervisor and/or Defence Studies Department’s Admissions Tutor. Your research proposal should explain precisely the field of study that you wish to contribute to, as well as any current research gaps, what you want to do, and how you propose to do it. Meanwhile, your personal statement should outline your reasons for pursuing doctoral research.

If your proposed supervisor and/or Admissions Tutor encourages you to apply, you will need to submit an online application via the application portal: King’s Apply.

Preparing a research proposal can take time. A good research proposal typically includes the following components:

  • A clear statement of the proposed research question.
  • An explanation of the importance and originality of the proposed topic.
  • A section outlining the key literature and academic work associated with your proposed topic. This section may refer to the lack or shortcomings of existing academic work in your proposed area.
  • A section describing not only your proposed methodology, but also an explanation of why this methodology is the most appropriate for the proposed topic.
  • An overview of the key research questions that you wish to answer.
  • A prospective chapter outline of the proposed thesis.
  • A timetable showing a realistic plan, including critical milestones, for the completion of your research and writing within three years.
  • A concluding section showing why this research should be conducted specifically here, within the Defence Studies Department, rather than anywhere else.

Funding your doctoral studies 

We attract studentships from a variety of sources, including the ESRC and the AHRC, as well as the MacArthur Foundation, the UK Ministry of Defence, and the US Department of Defense. Below are some of the funding opportunities available:

The Defence Studies Department aims to offer a limited number of competitive PhD studentships for civilian and military personnel each year

Find out more

This database contains both taught and research funding opportunities and allows you to conduct a search by a number of filters including subject area and country of domicile.

Find out more

The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funded London Interdisciplinary Social Science DTP (LISS DTP) awards postgraduate research studentships in the social sciences at three partner institutions – King’s College London, Queen Mary University of London, and Imperial College.

Find out more about LISS-DTP funding

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) funded London Arts and Humanities Partnership has up to 90 studentships per year available for postgraduate research students studying arts and humanities disciplines at King’s College London, London School of Economics and Political Science, Queen Mary University of London, Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, Royal College of Art, Royal College of Music, School of Advanced Study or University College London.

Find out more about LAHP funding

King’s College London has a subscription to the Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding. This is a web resource for current and prospective postgraduate students who are looking to fund Masters, PGCE, or PhD study in the UK through grants from the voluntary sector.

Find out more