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National Security Studies MA
Our unique National Security Studies MA enables participants to develop an in-depth understanding of UK and international national security practices. The course brings together security policy practitioners from the public and private sectors with postgraduate students interested in policy. Discussions focus on cross-governmental responses to security challenges related to key themes including strategy, resilience, cyber security, counter-terrorism, defence and foreign policy, and ethics and oversight in national security policy making. Participants will be given the opportunity to consider the subject from theoretical and practical policy perspectives before applying these lenses to some of the most pressing global issues in security policy. through case studies and coursework. The UK Government’s structures and mechanisms for cross-government and whole-of-system working in the national security field have evolved significantly since the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks. The programme’s core module adopts a staged, thematic approach by addressing issues of structure, processes, tools, and application (case studies) to provide the basis for understanding the contemporary practice of national security strategy in many countries. First, students are provided with an introduction to the historical, conceptual and practical dimensions of the UK’s development of a comprehensive ‘national security approach’. Students become acquainted with the structures of national security by studying aspects of the national security architecture ranging from National Security Councils to strategic reviews, such as the recent UK Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy. Participants will learn about why and how international governments must coordinate their national security activities even more coherently and effectively to better deliver cross-government and whole-of-system government outcomes, to address an ever growing range of security threats and a constantly changing international landscape. Second, students learn about various processes of national security, including defence strategy, counter-terrorism, risk management, intelligence and oversight. Participants examine the effectiveness of these processes: how successful have the security agencies of national governments been in tackling terrorism? What are the factors that undermine the relationship between intelligence assessment and policy? Is the UK’s National Risk Register (NRR) fit for purpose? Participants are empowered to think through these critical puzzles in the pursuit of national security. Third, students are introduced to a range of tools of national security, examining instruments such as sanctions, energy security, critical infrastructure, science and technology, and the role of the private sector. Participants develop a practical understanding of the challenges and opportunities for the instrumentalisation of national security, including whether there are any functions or sub-sectors of national security strategy that are so sensitive that they should never be conducted by the private sector, assessing the impact of unilateral sanctions on target states, evaluating the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence, and appraising the extent to which foreign investment in critical national infrastructure constitutes a national security issue. Finally, whilst an international and comparative approach is imbued across the programme, the final weeks of the course focus on an in-depth application of the themes studied on the course to case studies of different sizes, constitutions and political systems, including examples such as the U.S., China, Russia, India, Finland and Afghanistan. Participants learn to apply their knowledge to case studies. This comparative approach develops a more holistic understanding of how different states - with differing resources, public administration and economic systems - might safeguard their autonomy, build resilience and project influence. Altogether, the programme informs students about key national security themes, enabling them to critically analyse current and future developments in the field. Delivered by a team of academic experts with a background in security policy research and practice, it complements teaching with a series of guest presentations from former ministers and officials, MPs, and leading national security experts from around the world. The course will be adapted to incorporate current issues and events, but past cohorts have heard from former National Security Advisers, Intelligence Co-ordinators,senior defence officials, and more. Speakers on the course have included Professor Kori Schake, (former Deputy Head of the US State Department’s Policy Planning Staff and Director for Defense Strategy and Requirements in the National Security Council), Lord Peter Ricketts, GCMG, GCVO (formerly the first UK National Security Advisor), and Sir David Omand (formerly the first UK Security and Intelligence Coordinator and Director of the Government Communications Headquarters). Another key focus of the programme is to develop practical and transferable skills, including critical thinking, systematic approaches, policy analysis, and a greater understanding of international approaches and systems. Participants have gone on to work for NGOs, the FCO, the MOD, the Home Office, NATO, the UN or pursue careers in journalism, finance, academia, the diplomatic services, the armed forces and more. Recent posts held by our alumni include Threat Analyst, Director of Political Violence Forecasting, Research Advisor at NATO Defence College, and Research Analyst in the civil service. Classes are taught via a combination of weekly lectures and seminars. Lectures provide students with a concise and accessible introduction to the material covered in the module, as well as the opportunity to interact with the academic teaching staff and guest lecturers. Seminars provide students with opportunities to explore selected topics in more depth, in smaller groups, and under the guidance of a seminar lead. Several seminars will be used to pursue Problem-Based Learning scenarios, in which students collaborate in small syndicate groups to prepare a presentation for their wider seminar groups on subjects such as Intelligence and Oversight in different countries, and contemporary debates on American foreign policy. The first term culminates in a counter-terrorism simulation, led by a Visiting Professor from the National Security community, whilst the second term culminates in The King’s National Security Briefing - oral policy presentations in which each student pitches an idea to address a national security problem to a panel of distinguished policy practitioners. In previous years, these panels have included experts such as Sir Laurie Bristow KCMG (UK Ambassador to Afghanistan), Shashank Joshi (the Economist's defence editor), and Dr Camino Kavanagh (a member of the UN advisory support team to the Chairs of two UN negotiating processes relating to cyber/ICT and international security). Over the course of twenty weeks, participants will hear a range of perspectives on the strategic and operational aspects of national security and decision-making. In so doing, the MA programme in National Security Studies enables participants to understand and engage in contemporary debates about what constitutes an effective national security strategy and how it can be delivered.
- Transferable skills including the development of practical, policy-oriented insights into national security coordination and strategy.
- High level oral presentation and effective writing skills, developed through a programme of formative and summative exercises throughout the course.
- Development of strategic analysis and policy development skills. The course culminates in the King's National Security Briefing, when participants present their proposals to an elite panel of national security experts.
- Development of in-depth and critical analysis of national security, and familiarisation with the latest research in the discipline.
- A chance to network and connect with serving practitioners taking the core course, visiting academics, government ministers, diplomats and a wide range of experts from the field of national security.
- Students benefit from the unique central London location, enabling them to participate in a wide range of national security-related activities and events within and beyond King's, and to build their professional networks in the field.
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