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20 November 2023

King's and the Defence Academy of the UK empower future leaders in national security

Students from the Defence Studies Department’s Advanced Command and Staff course (ACSC), visited King’s Strand Campus in London to hear from leaders in security and defence.

ACSC Programme

Bringing together military and non-military students interested in defence, national security, and international relations, the Advanced Command and Staff Course (ACSC) was established in partnership with the Defence Academy of the UK and provides a unique postgraduate-level education for success in military operations and leadership roles within the government.

In a lecture held at Bush House, students were invited to hear from Sir Mark Sedwill, Former Cabinet Secretary and National Security Advisor of the United Kingdom, and Paul Wyatt, Director General for Security and Policy at the Ministry of Defence, on policy and strategy development.

Paul Wyatt reflected on past UK defence reviews in 1998, 2010, and 2015, delving into the challenges in reconciling military capability with financial constraints. For him, a flexible and evolutionary approach is needed for defence policy and organisational change.

“Defence transcends mere organisational structures; it is a cornerstone of national security. Our responsibilities extend beyond traditional military operations, encompassing defence exports and softer diplomatic facets that significantly influence the broader security landscape. Engaging with diverse government departments, from the Home Office to the Foreign Office, underscores the holistic nature of defence policy”

Paul Wyatt, Director General for Security and Policy at the Ministry of Defence.

Sir Mark Sedwill emphasised the importance of educational programmes like the ACSC course to address the challenges posed by technological advancements, climate change, demographic shifts, economic transformations and geopolitical tensions.  

“Reflecting on the past year, I've observed the need for a shift in perspective. As you embark on this course, I encourage you to engage actively in our discussions, challenging and questioning ideas directly. In understanding the world you're entering as strategic leaders, it's vital to grasp the broader issues at play. While elections and political concerns often dominate headlines, the real depth of our challenges lies in fundamental global issues. […] As you delve into the intricacies of strategic command, consider these complexities and prepare for the pivotal role you will play in navigating our evolving global landscape”

Sir Mark Sedwill

ACSC is a 46-week programme that has welcomes over 250 members from the armed forces, civil service, and an international contingent each year. It equips students with the knowledge and skills necessary for effective decision-making and strategic planning in complex operational environments.

Lieutenant Colonel Ben Irwin-Clark from the Defence Academy of the UK and one of the programme’s students, highlighted the valuable opportunities it provides for career development.

“Engaging with fellow course members, learning from esteemed external lecturers, and the academic support from King's have made this opportunity exceptional. The course not only serves as staff training but also as a command. Being fortunate enough to transition into a command role afterward, the wealth of leadership and management lessons, as well as various other aspects of the course, will prove invaluable not just now but also in future staff positions” - Lieutenant Colonel Ben Irwin-Clark.

For Dr Bence Nemeth, Academic Programme Director of ACSC, the course not only provides a comprehensive understanding of military strategies but also encourages interdisciplinary collaboration, enhancing students' abilities to address contemporary challenges.

“ACSC is deemed the best and most prestigious military staff course in Europe and the Commonwealth. Although most of the 260 military officer students are British, about 100 of them are international course members from over 50 countries. The Defence Studies Department provides academic support offering three masters pathways for the course members: MA in Defence Studies, MSc in Defence Innovation, MRes in Defence Studies”

Dr Bence Nemeth

For more information about the ACSC programme, please visit