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National Security Studies

Key information

Subject area:

Public Policy, Politics & Security

Course type:

Assessed Module

Course delivery mode:


Credit level:


Credit value:



20 three-hour sessions

Available course dates:

From: 27 September 2021 To: 01 April 2022
Application deadline: 17 September 2021

Course overview

The MA-level module in National Security Studies (NSS) is a 20-week and 45 credit module which is also the compulsory module for the MA programme in National Security Studies. The course builds on a long heritage of courses delivered by the Centre for Defence Studies (CDS) in the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. It has been designed for students and practitioners – those who work in government or the private sector – who wish to develop knowledge of national security policymaking processes and practices. The 2021-2022 course has been expanded to cover a wider range of topics and attracts 5 additional credits compared with academic year 2020-21. Successful candidates will earn 45 Masters-level post- graduate credits, transferable to other courses.

The module will take place weekly in the first and second semesters (Sep-Dec 2021 and Jan-April 2022). It has been constructed to provide students with an introduction to the conceptual and practical policy aspects of the recent UK and other national efforts to deliver a comprehensive national security approach. The course provides a contemporary, comparative and historically informed perspective on national security strategy. Students will actively learn about comparative national security approaches, exploring several case studies from the perspective of both larger and smaller states in different regions. Over the course of the 20 weeks, participants will hear a range of perspectives on the strategic, theoretical, and operational aspects of national security policymaking.

An important focus of the course is analysis of the post-Cold War evolution of the UK government’s structures and mechanisms for cross-government working in the national security field. The module will establish the origins and development of the UK’s contemporary approach to national security. This period saw many strategic and machinery of government innovations, including: the development of the UK’s Counter Terrorism strategy (CONTEST); publication of the country’s first National Security Strategy (2008) and Cyber Security Strategy (2009); and creation of the National Security Council (2010). This module enables practitioners to understand and engage with these contemporary developments in national security. It also facilitates critical reflection on future challenges such as the security-impact of emerging technologies.

The module is co-convened by Professor John Gearson, Professor of National Security Studies at King’s College and Director of CDS, and Dr Joe Devanny, Lecturer in National Security Studies. The module will also involve a variety of the leading current and former national security policy specialists and practitioners who are Visiting Professors in the Department of War Studies, such as Professor Sir David Omand (former Security and Intelligence Coordinator), Professor Lord (Peter) Ricketts (the UK’s first National Security Adviser), and Professor Sir John Sawers (former Chief of the Secret Intelligence Service). Other Senior Research Fellows provide teaching and research expertise in national security, such as Dr Hugo Rosemont who lectures on the course in public-private partnerships and national security. Similarly Visiting Professors at KCL who are affiliated with CDS lecture on a variety of topics, such as Professor Will Jessett who lectures on the strategic reviews and Professor Lady (Moira) Andrews who delivers the Counter-Terrorism Simulation.

Please note that this is only indicative information and is subject to change including start/end dates and course content. Please contact us directly for the most recent information.

What does this course cover?

The programme incorporates a mix of teaching approaches including lectures, presentations, and seminars, enabling students to interact with colleagues and policymakers. Participants will benefit from the insights and experiences of individuals possessing extensive practical experience within the UK and wider international policy environment with the intention of providing a holistic grounding in key issues in the field of national security. Examples of key issues that are addressed are (but not limited to):

  • UK National Security Strategy and international comparators
  • Defence and National Security
  • Comparative national security approaches
  • Cyber Security
  • Leadership and cross-governmental responses to security challenges
  • Inter-agency perspectives on delivering a National Security approach
  • Counter Terrorism and National Security Strategies
  • The ethics and oversight of national security Intelligence and national security
  • Air and Space Power in National Security
  • National Security Strategy for Small States
  • Countering Serious and Organised Crime
  • Public-private partnerships in National Security

The course is interactive and integrates active learning opportunities. For example, there is a Counter Terrorism Simulation Exercise that explores different aspects of CT operations. Furthermore, the course ends with the King’s National Security Policy Briefing Event, in which students present policy ideas to a panel of experienced former government, military, and private sector practitioners and security experts. In the Policy Briefing, students present concise national security policy recommendations of their choice and respond to panelists’ feedback in subsequent Questions and Answers (Q&A).

A key learning objective of the course is to allow participants to understand and critically analyse the origins, characteristics and future prospects for the ‘national security approach’ in the UK and internationally. A second key objective is to explore the extent to which this approach introduces an element of ‘securitisation’ into wider areas of policy, assessing whether this is counter-productive.

Reflecting the interactive nature of the course, the assessment model uses both formative and summative assessments, comprising written exercises and oral presentations.

What will I achieve?

Students will be provided with an intellectual framework for understanding the contested ‘national security’ concept and develop knowledge on key areas of security policy making such as cyber security and counter-terrorism. The module also addresses other key areas of national security policy including the effectiveness of political oversight arrangements in this area and the state’s growing tendency to engage with private companies to implement its objectives in this sensitive field.

Who will I learn with?

John  Gearson

John Gearson

Vice Dean - International, Faculty of Social Science and Public Policy

Joseph Devanny

Joseph Devanny

Lecturer in National Security Studies

Who is this for?

Subject to the Course Director's discretion and internal approval mechanisms, the entry requirements are based on academic background and/or a proven ability to conduct analytical work at Masters level.

Fees and discounts

The full fee for this course is £2,500. 

Further information

Please note that by clicking the apply button below you will be taken to King's Apply Portal. Here you will have to register an account and search for the course (National Security Studies) again.

Reading list

A full bibliography and course outline will be provided to participants during the first week of the course. However, for those interested in applying for this course, the following two government documents are recommended:

Course status:


Full fee £2500


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