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Postgraduate Study - PhD and Research Degrees

Strategy and Security


Degree types explained

  • 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 duration details

Start date

September or January

Locations Streatham Campus
Penryn Campus
Study modes

Study mode details

Full time and part time Study mode details


Phd students at the SSI have access to:

  • A professional mentor from our group of prestigious honorary appointments and Advisory Board, in addition to a supervisor.
  • Training in research methods
  • Opportunities to give papers at major conferences
  • Assistance in the publication of their work
  • A lively seminar series with past speakers including leading academics from around the world and senior practitioners such as the Director General of MI5.
  • Teaching opportunities

View 2024 Entry

How to apply

Apply online

Ask a question

Strategy and Security research pages


Web: Enquire online

Phone: +44 (0)1392 72 72 72


Web: Enquire online
Phone: 0300 555 6060 (UK)
+44 (0)1392 723044 (non-UK)

For general enquiries about the Strategy and Security Institute please contact

Vibrant, collaborative and interdisciplinary research culture

Leading academics and practitioners

Research overview

The Strategy and Security Institute's vibrant, collaborative and interdisciplinary research culture incorporates people working across the whole spectrum of contemporary security issues. The international community of researchers and practitioners has an excellent record of winning external funding, and promoting collaboration and impact.

Key research areas

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

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.

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.

Research degrees

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.

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

How to apply

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

International students need to show they have the required level of English language to study this course. The required test scores for this course fall under Profile E: view the required test scores and equivalencies from your country.

PhD and Research Programme application process

The information below applies to self-funded PhD, MPhil and Masters by Research applicants, but if you are applying for a funded PhD studentship, please follow the specific instructions related to that application.

  • Pinpoint your PhD research area
  • Investigate whether this area is available at Exeter
  • Ensure that you meet our English language entry requirements (international students only)
  • Construct and refine your PhD research proposal
  • Approach your potential supervisor(s)
  • Apply online

PhD studentships pages can be accessed in our Funding lists on Finance tabs under each research topic page, and are also available from the Postgraduate Research search results pages on this site, on the PhD projects tab.

Full details of the application process can be found on our Apply now webpage.

Read more

Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2024/25

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 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.

Our Postgraduate Funding webpage provides links to further information. If you are considering a PhD in the future, in addition to University of Exeter funding, we have been successful at securing postgraduate funding for PhD research through our Funded centres.

Current available funding


Our research degrees provide opportunities to study with leading academics and practitioners who are specialists in strategy and security. We particularly welcome enquiries from students seeking to undertake research in our key research areas. However we offer research supervision on a range of topics.

Please visit our staff profiles to find out more about our individual research interests. Please contact our Graduate Research School for information about eligibility before contacting the staff member closest to your interests for an initial discussion about potential research topics.