MA Applied Security Strategy

Duration Full time 1 year
Part time 2 years
  • Politics and International Relations
LocationExeter (Streatham)
Start date September


The MA Applied Security Strategy (MStrat) is an interdisciplinary programme designed to develop confident, critical thinkers with the potential to lead on the development and execution of policy and strategy in an uncertain, culturally-diverse and resource-constrained world. The course content meets the needs of current and future strategic practitioners and anyone who wishes to understand strategy in action.

The programme employs simulations and field trips alongside lectures, seminars and conferences with leading academics and practitioners to create and train experts in the fusion of strategic communications and intelligence. The highly-relevant and practitioner-targeted programme will equip you with the skills to craft policy and strategy in the contemporary security arena.

  • Team taught by Strategy and Security Institute academics, led by Lieutenant General (Retd) Sir Paul Newton KBE, Dr Martin Robson and leading academics from across the University
  • Also learn from senior practitioners from the private sector, intelligence community, the military, NGOs, international organisations and across government
  • Innovative teaching includes crisis management simulations with practitioners and at NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps HQ
  • Field trips to the Balkans and Brussels to view strategic security issues at first hand
  • Exposure to Whitehall and participation in joint conferences with the Royal United Services Institute
  • Excellent networking and mentor and peer support
  • Full fee and other scholarships available for professional, academic, UK/EU and international students

The MStrat develops the professional judgement of future decision-makers through a dialogue of theory and practice. We examine the practical problems of pursuing security in an uncertain world, preparing students to make theoretically-informed choices under pressure.

Dr Martin Robson, Acting Academic Director SSI and MStrat Programme Director defines the MA Applied Security Strategy.

The standout moment was the presentation my team and I gave to RUSI. The opportunity to not only present but also be challenged by foreign policy professionals in their London home has been a great source of pride and one that I am not likely to forget. The MStrat is a fantastic bridge from academic studies to the world of employment.

Matthew Power, MA Applied Security Strategy graduate.

Programme structure

The programme is studied over 12 months (full time) or 24 months (part time).

You will complete 180 credits made up of 135 credits of compulsory modules and a 45-credit dissertation.

Field trips and events

As part of these compulsory modules, the MStrat may also incorporate the following non-optional commitments and events:

  • Field Visit: Headquarters Allied Rapid Reaction Corps
  • London Workshop: Royal United Services Institute, London
  • Field Trip: European Union and NATO
  • Simulation Exercise
  • Field Trip: Balkans
  • Crisis Watch Briefing Conference: Royal United Services Institute, London

Part-time option

The part-time MA programme content is exactly the same as the full-time programme and all the modules remain compulsory.

The four taught modules will need to be taken sequentially but may be spread over two years. The Crisis Watch: Active Strategy Module will run over two years; the Field Trips that form part of the module could be conducted in either year but would be best done sequentially, culminating in the London Conference in June of the second year as the final element of the Crisis Watch Module. The Dissertation module will be completed as part of the second year of the programme.

The four taught modules are block taught in Exeter and part-time students would be expected to be resident when undertaking these modules but could be elsewhere outside residential periods. Assignments for the taught modules are due for submission two or three weeks after the end of the module so those considering the part-time option should ensure they have allowed sufficient time after each module to complete the assignments. If you are considering the part-time option you should remember that the dissertation module does extend into the summer with submission programmed for early September.

Please contact us to assist you in planning and programming this course on a part-time basis as there are several options depending on your personal circumstances.

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Learning and teaching

You will experience strategy in action by:

  • Participating in crisis simulations
  • Taking part in field trips
  • Visiting and interacting with think-tanks and policymakers
  • Analysing and presenting case studies

You will work in teams to track and assess contemporary security problems, such as the Iran nuclear issue, and will construct policy advice considering strategic options and implications.  

Policy development and crisis management simulations

We draw heavily on the types of simulation techniques used to develop and test strategic concepts. In exercises based on actual events in global politics you’ll be assigned roles and play key figures such as the Secretary General of the United Nations, the Chief Operations Officer of a major NGO, a national ambassador, a military force commander and so on. Working in teams of allies, you will define and work towards implementing your strategic aims.

These high tempo exercises emphasise strategic decision-making and developing practical skills such as chairing meetings and running video conferences. The simulations allow learning from real events blended with ‘alternative futures’ where skills such as Red Teaming and Scenario Planning are explored. You’ll be assessed on your performance during the simulation plus a relevant portfolio of work including press reports, ministerial briefings and research papers such as intelligence assessments. Simulations have taken place at the University of Exeter and the Headquarters of the NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps and involved practitioners from the UK and overseas.

Block teaching

The full-time MA is delivered in intensive blocks of teaching over three semesters. This approach:

  • Is necessary for running effective crisis simulations
  • Enables you to benefit from higher levels of contact with teaching staff compared with other Masters-level programmes
  • Builds a strong ethic of collaboration and teamwork with your fellow students

You will be required to attend several periods of study, over all three semesters, at our Streatham Campus. The programme will be supplemented with short-notice events and working suppers.

Field trips

International trips include a two day visit to battle sites in Europe, such as the Somme, where you’ll come face to face with the moral, ethical and human dimensions of strategic decision making. You’ll also visit an international organisation involved in strategic security, such as NATO in Brussels. Here you’ll meet policymakers and other professionals dealing with similar issues. The main field trip is a five day visit to the Balkans to develop your understanding of how strategy works in practice and what lessons can be learned from conflict and post conflict situations. 


You will have the opportunity to discuss material covered in earlier core modules and hear the latest strategic thinking from academics, policymakers and practitioners.

You will also present your Crisis Watch work in groups and submit a short research paper on a related security topic at a conference held jointly with RUSI and the University of Exeter Strategy and Security Institute. The best conference papers will be included in a composite conference report along contributions from researchers and keynote speakers.

Case studies

You’ll examine a series of case studies to identify recurring themes, consider what worked and what went wrong and the lessons learned. By drawing on events leading up to the Second World War, events in Berlin and Cuba, the Middle East, the Balkans and Iraq, you’ll get very specific insights into the dynamics of real world crises. You’ll also hear first hand from some of those involved about their experience and perspective. 

Practitioner-led workshops

The involvement of practitioners from the UK and overseas in your teaching and learning provides the latest insights and real world relevance. Participating practitioners will come from a range of organisations within government, the military, private sector and the media. They will be lecturing, providing seminars and involved in mentoring students and will also participate in networking events.


Although many of our graduates become involved with the armed forces, the contacts, knowledge and skills developed during this programme prove invaluable to anyone wishing to pursue a career in:

  • politics
  • government service
  • the diplomatic and intelligence communities
  • NGOs
  • the media
  • private security
  • risk analysis, and,
  • any other environment where strategic thinking and decision making is required.

Following a course visit to a NATO crisis management simulation an MStrat student summed up his thinking on career options in this way;

"At the start of the course two months ago I was pretty sure what I wanted to do. But since then I've discovered several new options that I'd just not considered before."

We place a strong emphasis on employability and provide valuable opportunities to apply knowledge and expertise developed during the programme to real world situations. Our aim is to foster life-long networks of learning and shared experience among our cohorts through their continuing affiliation with the Institute.

Skills development

Build a range of skills and competencies including the ability to:

  • Identify, analyse and apply creative yet structured thinking to 'wicked' problems in highly complex and volatile political contexts
  • Craft effective strategy, taking timely decisions and employing the advocacy skills required to communicate them effectively
  • Develop and display personal initiative, confidence and leadership
  • Interact with senior policymakers and practitioners to shape effective outcomes
  • Evaluate the complexities involved when undertaking strategic decisions in changing political contexts
  • Work collaboratively and effectively as an individual and within a team under pressure while maintaining high levels of judgement, group focus, cohesion and professionalism to achieve common goals
  • Gather and deploy evidence, data and information to make robust arguments about security strategy

Employability support

Our Employability and Graduate Development team offer support including skills training, internships, jobs vacancies, employment fairs and other events is available through the Career Zone.

The standout moment was the presentation my team and I gave to RUSI. The opportunity to not only present but also be challenged by foreign policy professionals in their London home has been a great source of pride and one that I am not likely to forget. The MStrat is a fantastic bridge from academic studies to the world of employment.

Matthew Power, MA Applied Security Strategy graduate


MA Applied Security Strategy students are located in Knightley on the Streatham Campus. It includes a bespoke, fully-equipped teaching space designed for the programme, bespoke syndicate rooms, academic offices as well as the Strategy and Security Institute academics and administrative office. 

Your learning is supported by the latest technology, you can access course materials and lecture notes online; interact and collaborate with other students in our virtual learning environment and submit and receive feedback on your work electronically.

The University of Exeter library has recently benefited from a £5.8 million redevelopment. Open 24/7 virtually all year round, the library includes state of the art multimedia facilities, student-friendly learning spaces and access to our superb collections of print and online resources. The library has extensive holdings of works on political science, international relations and the various sub-disciplines. Each subject area has subject support specialists who offer a comprehensive programme of training on information search techniques, information resources in your subject area, journal and database searches, as well as drop-in sessions and surgeries.

Exeter is a wonderful place to study but it is not the heart of the policy-making community. The Strategy and Security Institute has a close relationship with the London-based leading security and defence think-tank, the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). RUSI in Whitehall provides us with our London base and window into the strategic world. It is where we will hold conferences and some seminars, minutes from where policy is made and strategy conceived. The resources of RUSI will support the MA Applied Security Strategy and members of the RUSI team will teach key elements of the programme. Contacts made through our link with RUSI will help form the basis of your career security network.

Entry requirements 2020/21

The minimum entry requirement is a Honours degree, 2:1 or equivalent, in any discipline from a recognised institution.

You may also apply for this course if you do not have the required formal academic qualification if you have at least two years of relevant work experience, or have attained appropriate professional qualifications. Suitable work experience might include: government service, working for an international organisation such as the United Nations or for a Non-Governmental Organisation. 

Candidates who do not meet the formal academic admissions criteria will need to convince the MStrat Programme Director, through their application, that they have the intellectual capacity to complete this selective and rigorous Masters course. Please contact us to discuss your application.

See the 'Apply' tab for more information on the application process.

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 6.5. No less than 6.0 in any section.


Overall score 90 with minimum scores of 21 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

58 with no less than 55 in all communicative skills.

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.

Application process

This selective and competitive Masters programme has been developed for ambitious students aiming to work at the very top of their respective careers and who can cope with the demands of experiential learning in a pressurised environment. While academic credentials are important, we are looking for much more than just good grades.

If you wish to be considered for this programme please submit an application via the “How to apply” button in the top right hand corner.

     Your application should include:

  • a CV
  • transcripts
  • a reference
  • a covering letter/personal statement

Once you have submitted a complete application (including all of the supporting documents listed above), on or before 20 January 2020 you will be sent the title of an essay which forms part of the MStrat selection process.  You must then:

  • Write a 500 word essay on the given subject
  • Return it within the two week deadline to

Incomplete applications, or those unaccompanied by an essay, will not be put forward to the selection panel for consideration.

All applications received by 20 January 2020 are guaranteed consideration for a place on the course. Those who apply by 20 January 2020 and submit their essay by the deadline will be informed of the selection panel’s decision during February 2020.

Applications received after 20 January 2020 will be held and – should there still be places available on the programme after the guaranteed consideration deadline - considered by a second selection panel in the summer.  These applicants will be sent an essay title on or around 11 May 2020 and should expect to hear a decision by the end of June 2020.

Those not selected for the course will receive communication from Central Admissions. It is NOT possible to discuss the outcome of the admissions process, or to provide feedback to candidates.

Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2020/21

  • UK/EU: £14,900 full-time, £7,450 part-time
  • International: £23,400 full-time

Please note the cost of field trips (including travel, accommodation and most basic subsistence) is included in your tuition fee.

MA Applied Security Strategy Excellence Scholarship

Excellence Scholarships ranging from £1500 to £5000 are available and will be awarded on merit by the MStrat Scholarships Board to those candidates who demonstrate in their application that they have the academic ability, potential talent and expertise, not only to thrive on the programme but to progress to future leadership roles. Find out more.

Enhanced learning credits

Members of the Armed Forces can use enhanced learning credits to offset the cost of the MA Applied Security Strategy. The University of Exeter is approved by the Ministry of Defence as a provider of the Enhanced Learning Credit Scheme which promotes life-long learning.

The Strategy and Security Institute is delighted to work with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to open the MA Applied Security Strategy to Chevening Scholars.

Chevening Scholarships

The Chevening Scholarship Programme is the UK’s most prestigious scholarship scheme for students (excluding the USA and EU) funded by the FCO and its partner organisations. Established in 1983, the Chevening Scholarship Programme runs in over one hundred countries and supports about 700 students annually. The scheme is designed to enable young professionals who are current and future leaders, decision makers and opinion formers to study in the UK and then to use their studies and experience to make a positive difference in their own countries when they return. Many former Chevening scholars have gone on to be leaders in their fields and have also become part of the influential Chevening Alumni network.

More information and application details are available on the Chevening website including full details on the Chevening selection process. You will be required to complete the University of Exeter’s application process, including writing a 500 word essay, for consideration by the MStrat Programme Director. Please ensure you annotate your application form to the effect that you are a Chevening applicant.

Contact us

Please contact us if you would like more information about this programme, or if you would like to arrange to come and see us.

Postal address

Strategy and Security Institute
University of Exeter
Streatham Drive

Postgraduate taught admissions

For academic enquiries relating to this programme, please contact:

Dr Martin Robson, Acting Academic Director 

For admissions enquiries relating to this programme, please contact:

Tel. +44 (0)1392 723192
Fax +44 (0)1392 723196
WebEnquire online

For general enquiries relating to the programme, please contact:

Debbie Ironside-Smith, Executive PA to the Director

Where to find us

The University of Exeter Strategy and Security Institute is located on our Streatham Campus. For information on how to find us, please see our directions to Streatham Campus and the Streatham Campus map.

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MA Applied Security Strategy

MA Applied Security Strategy
A unique approach to developing a new generation of leaders.

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