MA in War Studies
Our world is profoundly shaped by war. This programme explores why wars start, how war has evolved, and how wars are conducted and experienced today. The MA in War Studies programme is the Department’s original postgraduate programme of study. Today it is widely regarded as one of the best such programmes in the world. This is because it offers students a unique opportunity to develop a well-rounded understanding of war that is informed by a variety of academic disciplines and by the insights of professional practitioners.
A key strength of the War Studies programme is the students it attracts. The programme is designed for those who have little or no background in the study of war, or who have some specialized knowledge and wish to broaden their understanding of war. Consequently they come from a wide range of academic, professional and international backgrounds. A student fresh from undergraduate study might find herself in a seminar discussion with a former general or diplomat, with each having something unique to contribute to the learning process. The result each year is a vibrant and friendly community of scholars, made up of students and faculty members alike, each of whom benefits greatly from the presence of the others.
In the heart of London
A second strength is the Department’s location at the heart of London. Here we are close to the seat of British government and near to the other major institutions in our field, the Royal United Services Institute, the International Institute for Strategic Studies, and the Royal Institute for International Affairs. Accordingly, an international range of leader figures from government, the military, and academia routinely visit us. This enables us to offer an unrivalled number of evening lectures, seminars and other events throughout the academic year: recent events have included lectures by the US Secretary of Defence, Britain’s Chief of the General Staff, the Newsnight Editor Mark Urban, and government ministers from Afghanistan, Georgia, and Iraq.
The programme is divided into three major components. In the core module, ‘Approaches to War’, students learn about the political, strategic and technological dimensions of war with reference to historical and contemporary events. In the process, they benefit from the insights of internationally acknowledged experts in established areas such as strategic theory and counter-insurgency. They also examine new issues such as cyber war and the emergence of autonomous weapons. The result is a firm foundation that our students can build on as they pursue more specialist studies. The second major programme component are the option modules. Students take two of these that are chosen from an extensive selection offered by the Department. These modules provide opportunities for more focused study on specific aspects of war, under the direction of academics who are working at the cutting edge of their particular specialisms. Here in the Department we pride ourselves on the high quality of the research-led teaching that we offer our students, and the option modules are the place where a great deal of this teaching takes place. A number of our modules also seek to bring real-world experience into the classroom, such as two of our most popular modules, ‘The Conduct of Contemporary Warfare’, which is taught by our resident Military Fellow, and ‘The Evolution of Insurgency’, which includes a site visit to a British Army base. The third element of the programme is the dissertation. Students write a 15,000-word research paper on an approved topic of their choice. This offers everyone a chance to really excel during their year with us by working on a project that is central to their interests. Students typically find this both a challenging and enjoyable experience. The results are frequently very impressive, and the best dissertations often go on to be published in academic journals.
Excellent career opportunities
A master’s degree in War Studies is a qualification that is recognized and valued around the world, especially in public and private sectors associated with security, defence and military affairs. Our students typically go on to pursue a wide range of exciting and challenging careers in government departments, the military, NGOs and private-sector areas such as journalism, finance, consultancy and risk analysis. Some students also move into postgraduate research, either in the War Studies Department or at other academic institutions. Many of our former students readily acknowledge that their time with the Department gave them an edge that they needed in order to succeed in today’s highly competitive job market. What they also say is that studying here was a uniquely enjoyable and stimulating experience in itself.