Strategy and Security

  • MPhil/PhD Security, Conflict and Human Rights (Exeter and Cornwall)
  • MPhil/PhD Strategy and Security (Exeter only)
  • MA by Research Strategy and Security (Exeter only)
Degree typesTypes of research degrees explained
DurationDegree duration details
LocationCornwall (Penryn), Exeter (Streatham)
Study modesFull time and part time
Split-site research available Study mode details
Start date September or January

Research overview

Research degrees in this area of interest provide opportunities to study with leading academics and practitioners who are specialists in strategy and security, based in our Strategy and Security Institute

Academics in the Institute carry out research, consultancy and teaching in the fields of global security and strategy, particularly relating to how individuals and organisations deal with conflict under intense pressure.

Strategic decision-making

The SSI is at the forefront of research into the drivers of strategic decision-making by civilian and military leaders, and planners in the foreign and defence policy domains.

Our areas of research expertise in strategic decision-making include:

  • The cognitive drivers of leaders' behaviour during international crises
  • Rational choice and decision-making
  • The psychology of coercion and deterrence
  • The management and allocation of defence resources
  • Military decision-making in history
  • Classical theories of strategic choice
  • The leadership and planning of complex modern military forces and operations

Contemporary strategic problems

Our research into contemporary strategic problems includes:

  • military interventions and global order
  • the return of great power competition
  • the evolving character of warfare.

The contemporary international security environment presents a paradox. On the one hand, the global security situation, at least for developed states, remains far more benign than the tense nuclear stand-off of the Cold War. On the other hand, the third post-Cold-War decade has brought with it a less benign strategic outlook, at least for Western states, than the two that preceded it. SSI academics are in the vanguard of this research agenda, seeking to understand the causes, consequences, and mitigation of many of today's most serious security problems.

A legal and normative framework of warfare

Our legal and normative framework of warfare research includes:

  • international law of military operations
  • ethical implications of remotely-piloted and autonomous military technologies

Exeter works closely with the military legal community to investigate the evolution of the legal framework of warfare and the impact of law and legal processes on security policy and military operations.

The decision to use organised violence in pursuit of strategic goals is not just a matter of political will and equipment; it is also governed by a system of social norms and processes, including a complex body of domestic and international law. While the growing impact of legal rules and processes promises to strengthen the rule of law at the international level, it also imposes operational burdens and strategic costs on the use of force. The extent to which these developments undermine operational effectiveness and constrain national security choices has become a question of immense significance.


Security, Conflict and Human Rights (MPhil/PhD)

The Security, Conflict and Human Rights programme is an interdisciplinary pathway, which recognises that traditional approaches to security studies must now be complemented with new perspectives of issues such as human (in)security more widely, including domestic insecurity and violence, in order to develop better strategies for resolving conflicts and securing social justice.

It will train researchers who are equipped with the interdisciplinary skills to impact the research, policy and practice needed to avoid and mitigate security risks.

For students who have not undertaken comprehensive research training at Masters level, there is a possibility of taking the MRes in Security, Conflict and Human Rights before embarking on your research degree.

Strategy and Security (MPhil/PhD and MA by Research)

We offer research supervision on a range of topics. These include:

  • Integrated approaches to conflict prevention and management
  • The changing character of contemporary conflict including counter-insurgency and cyber security
  • Current challenges in the strategic and security world
  • International efforts to stabilise failed, failing or fragile states
  • Middle East and North African security
  • Decision-making and leadership in strategy
  • Strategy and security in the contemporary world
  • Strategic understanding
  • Defence reform and strategy in the context of wider public policy with particular reference to the UK, US, NATO and the Middle East
  • Science, technology and security policy
  • Strategy in application
  • Humanitarian intervention and the laws of armed conflict
  • Civil-military relations, strategic culture and security sector governance
  • Arms control and non-proliferation including sensitive technology and arms export controls
  • US-European security and defence relations and the role and future of NATO
  • Domestic security, public resilience and counter-terrorism
  • The politics of defence industrial consolidation in Europe and the US
  • Ethics of the use of armed force


The Strategy and Security Institute is based in Knightley, a gracious detached period building on the edge of Exeter University’s beautiful Streatham Campus; it is building 55 on the Streatham Campus Map.

Knightley’s interior blends traditional relaxing comfort with contemporary meeting requirements, including state of the art AV equipment. It is the perfect venue for bespoke events: conferences, ‘away days’ or research workshops. The Board Room is ideal for lectures, seminars or discussion and the elegant Meeting Room suits smaller meetings or groups.

Entry requirements


Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 7.0 with a minimum score of 6.5 in the writing component and all other sections no less than 6.0.


Overall score 100 with minimum scores of 25 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Finance: fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2023/24

For those studying for more than one year, our fees are expected to increase modestly in line with Consumer Price Inflation measured in December each year. More information can be found on our Student Finance webpages.

Tuition fees per year 2022/23

For those studying for more than one year, our fees are expected to increase modestly in line with Consumer Price Inflation measured in December each year. More information can be found on our Student Finance webpages.

Current available funding

Contact us

The Doctoral College PGR Support Team helps to support both intellectual and social contact between graduates of different disciplines and from different backgrounds and countries. Our team supports both prospective and current postgraduate research students.

Phone: +44(0) 1392 724490
WebEnquire online


For general enquiries about the Strategy and Security Institute please contact:

Debbie Ironside-Smith, Executive PA to the Director



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