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Defence Studies Research MPhil/PhD

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  • Current number of academic staff: 57
  • Current number of research students: 90

Recent publications:

  • Security in the South Caucasus: what role for NATO and the EU?
  • Why Military Interventions Fail: An Historical Overview
  • Actors, Coalitions and the Making of Foreign Security Policy: US Strategic Trade with the People’s Republic of China
  • Campaigning at the operational level for maritime forces
  • Iran's Nuclear Programme: a Case Study in Hedging?

More publications

Key information

Duration MPhil two years full-time (four years part-time); PhD three years full-time (six years part-time) with an additional writing-up year if necessary.

Study mode Distance Learning, Full-time, Part-time

Further details

Awarding institution King's College London

Faculty Faculty of Social Science & Public Policy

Department Defence Studies Department



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Course detail


Research in the Defence Studies Department (DSD) is reflective of the diverse interests of our staff members and postgraduate students. It covers military, naval, diplomatic and imperial history, international relations, defence and regional security policy studies, strategic studies, and the ethics of conflict. This wide range of topics is united by their relation and relevance to contemporary security and defence issues.

Indeed, DSD’s unique position, an academic department based at the Defence Academy, heavily influences its research. At the heart of security and defence education in the United Kingdom, it is able to draw on the experiences and knowledge of a not only UK 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 also across the world.

Researchers from DSD have played important role in past UK security and defence reviews and continue to influence future reviews. Additionally, DSD staff members are regularly consulted by national and international media on contemporary and past events. Public engagement includes working with a wide range of museums, such as the Imperial War Museum, the National Army Museum, the RAF Museum, and the Royal Navy Museum. DSD researchers have also contributed to national and international events commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Napoleonic Wars and the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Research from members of staff is published in top-ranked international journals, including International Affairs, War in History, Journal of Strategic Studies, English Historical Review, International History Review, and Survival. Articles by DSD staff members have won Society for Military History Moncado Prizes, and monographs have won prizes from the Royal Historical Society, the US Navy League, and the Roosevelt Institute. Moreover, researchers regularly present at international academic conferences and institutions, such as Yale University, Hong Kong University, and the National University of Singapore, as well as military institutions, such as the US Naval War College, US Naval Academy, and the Japanese National Institute of Defence Studies.

DSD research projects have been funded by the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC), the MacArthur Foundation, the British Council, the European Commission, the US Army War College, the UK Ministry of Defence, and the US Department of Defense.

Since 2011, we have run our own postgraduate research programme. 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. All students have access to King’s ESRC Doctoral Training Centre.

Course study environment

Postgraduate students are allocated a supervisor from within the Defence Studies Department and a second supervisor either from DSD or another Department. They meet their primary supervisor regularly, with formal progress reviews being held every six months. Students have access to workspaces with computers and printers, either located in the Department of War Studies on the Strand Campus or at the Joint Services Command and Staff College, subject to security clearance. Students can also request access to the library of the JSCSC. Students are encouraged to take part in the lively research culture of the Department and the Group, attending research seminars (at which they are expected at some point to present a paper on their work), student-organised research workshops, or the regular seminars, visiting lectures and conferences that are held either in London or at the JSCSC in Shrivenham. They are also expected to participate in one or more of the DSD or War Studies research groups which organise their own programmes of events.

Postgraduate training

Students will have their training and development needs assessed and will, with their supervisor, draw up a personalised programme of training that will both allow them to complete their research project and also provide the skills they will need in their subsequent career. This training will include courses provided by the Department, the War Studies Group, the Graduate School or the KISS-DTC, as well as attending, presenting at and helping to organise research workshops and conferences.

Head of group/division

Dr Ken Payne

Contact for information

Dr Sukanya Podder, Admissions Tutor | Tel +44 (0)1793 788179 | Sukanya.podder@kcl.ac.uk
Dr Ken Payne, PhD Programme Director | Tel +44 (0)1793 788067 | kenneth.payne@kcl.ac.uk

Contact email


Course website


Entry requirements

Entry requirements

Defence Studies Research Entry Requirements
Minimum requirements  
  • Master's degree with high merit, and a 2:1 honours degree at the bachelor's level. It is highly desirable (but not essential) to have taken courses in this field at postgraduate level before undertaking research work in the Defence Studies Department.

  • Extensive practical experience in a relevant field (eg military, diplomatic, humanitarian or developmental) may be taken into account when evaluating an application.

International requirements   Visit our admissions webpages to view our International entry requirements.
English Language requirements Band B Visit our admissions webpages to view our English language entry requirements.


Application procedure

The normal entry requirement for the MPhil/PhD programme is a master’s degree with a distinction or high merit (or overseas equivalent), and/or a first or 2.1 honours degree at the Bachelors level (or overseas equivalent). It is not essential to have taken courses in this field at postgraduate level, but we advise students to consider taking one of our MA's or a similar course elsewhere before undertaking research work in the Defence Studies Department.
Extensive practical experience in the relevant field (e.g. military, diplomatic, journalistic, humanitarian or developmental) may be taken into account when evaluating an application. Applicants will need to find a potential supervisor before applying. Those applying for the joint degree are expected to contact academics at both King's and the partner institution to agree joint supervision. Applications are subject to a formal interview (in person or online).

To apply for most of our postgraduate programmes at King's you will need to complete our postgraduate online application form. A minority of programmes have a different application procedure which will be outlined below. Applying online makes applying easier and quicker for you, and means we can receive your application faster and more securely.
King's does not normally accept paper copies of the postgraduate application form as applications must be made online. However, if you are unable to access the online postgraduate application form, please contact the relevant admissions/School Office at King's for advice.

If you have already applied to King's through our online application form you can check the status of your application by logging into myApplication.

If you are interested in pursuing postgraduate research in the Defence Studies Department, you should look at the staff profiles in the ‘DSD People’ section of our website to identify a potential supervisor with research interests in a similar area. Ideally, you should contact them to discuss your proposal before making an official application through the King’s online application system.

Once the application material is received, your application will be considered by a panel of academic tutors. Some applicants may be interviewed, either in person, or by telephone/Skype.

Personal statement and supporting information

Please include the name of your proposed supervisor at King's. To identify a supervisor please see: https://kclpure.kcl.ac.uk/portal/en/

You will be asked to submit the following documents in order for your application to be considered:

Defence Studies Research checklist
Personal Statement Yes A personal statement of up to 4,000 characters (maximum 2 pages) is required
Research Proposal Yes

The proposal should explain in some detail precisely the field of study that you want to contribute to and current research gaps, what you want to do and how you propose to do it. For advice on how to write a winning application, please visit the following page.

It is compulsory that all applications include a research proposal. Applications that are received without one will be rejected. The potential student should produce the proposal with the help of their potential supervisor. The proposal should be no longer than 6 pages of A4 and size 12 font. The proposal should include an introduction to the research topic, the research question the student wants to answer, brief details on what methods/theories the research will used to answer the question, and a short literature review.

Previous Academic Study Yes A copy (or copies) of your official academic transcript(s), showing the subjects studied and marks obtained. If you have already completed your degree, copies of your official degree certificate will also be required. Applicants with academic documents issued in a language other than English, will need to submit both the original and official translation of their documents.
References Yes Two references are required with at least one academic. Professional references will be accepted if you have completed your qualifications over five years ago.
Writing Sample Yes A sample of your previous writing (this would usually be an extended piece of writing such as a dissertation/thesis from masters or undergraduate study, or perhaps a research paper if you have been involved in more recent research and you are the sole author. The writing sample should be in English.
Other Optional You may wish to include a CV (Resume) or evidence of professional registration as part of your application.


Course intake

Approximately 12 per year.

Application closing date

The deadlines for applications are detailed below. We will open applications for an intake in 2020 after the final deadline passes in 2019.

  • January 2019 entry – 26th October 2018 for International students and 3rd December 2018 for Home/EU students
  • October 2019 entry – 26th July 2019 for International students and 30th August for Home/EU students
  • January 2020 entry – 25th October 2019 for International students and 2nd December 2019 for Home/EU students

Please note that funding deadlines may be earlier.


Help and support

If you don't have a suitable qualification for direct entry to a UK university, or if English isn't your first language, our academic preparation courses can help you get ready for study in the UK.

Preparation courses

Fees and funding

UK/EU Tuition Fees 2018/19

Full time tuition fees:

£5,000 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies)

£5,000 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies via Distance Learning)

Part time tuition fees:

£2,500 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies)

£2,500 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies via Distance Learning)

UK/EU Tuition Fees 2019/20

Full time tuition fees:

£5,300 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies)

£5,300 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies via Distance Learning)

Part time tuition fees:

£2,650 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies)

£2,650 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies via Distance Learning)


International Tuition Fees 2018/19   

Full time tuition fees:

£18,740 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies)

£18,740 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies via Distance Learning)

Part time tuition fees:

£9,370 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies)

£9,370 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies via Distance Learning)

International Tuition Fees 2019/20

Full time tuition fees:

£19,850 per year  (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies)

£19,850 per year (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies via Distance Learning)

Part time tuition fees:

£9,950 per year  (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies)

£9,950 per year  (MPhil/PhD, Defence Studies via Distance Learning)

Students starting their programme in 2019/20 who are eligible to pay EU fees will pay the same rate of tuition fees as UK students. This will apply for the duration of their programme, but may be subject to change by the UK Government for subsequent cohorts from 2020/21.

These tuition fees may be subject to additional increases in subsequent years of study, in line with King’s terms and conditions.

Financial help and support

Visit the fees and funding webpages to find out more about bursaries, scholarships, grants, tuition fees, living expenses, student loans and other financial help available at King's.


Next steps

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