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Intelligence & Security Studies (Distance Learning) - MA

Course content

About the course

Intelligence and security policy issues are now one of the fastest growing areas of academic and public concern, especially since '9/11' and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Today more than ever before national governments, international agencies and most major international corporations have an identified need for staff with a strong grasp of intelligence and security issues who can also demonstrate first-rate skills of research and assessment.

Taught by the internationally respected scholars of the Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, backed up where required by practitioner expertise, the MA in Intelligence and Security Studies (MA ISS) now available by Distance Learning) offers a unique opportunity for practical, policy-oriented graduate study of intelligence issues applicable across the private and public sectors around the world.


This course will be of value to individuals seeking to go into security-oriented careers in both the private sectors, as well as to individuals engaged in the security professions who seek further qualifications and professional enhancement.

A distinctive feature of the course lies in its combining the rigorous study of intelligence and security policy studies with practical opportunities to develop intelligence skills through case studies and simulation exercises dealing with intelligence analysis.

Course Content

The MA consists of both compulsory and optional modules, a typical selection can be found below. Modules can vary from year to year, but these offer a good idea of what we teach.

Year 1

Compulsory modules:

Intelligence Concepts: Issues and Institutions
Intelligence History: Failure and Success
Intelligence and Security Studies Project

Year 2

Compulsory modules:

Contemporary Threats and Analytical Methodology
Intelligence and Security Studies Project

Optional modules:

Intelligence Analysis Foundations, Methods and Applications
Counterintelligence and Security

Typical Dissertations

Dissertation (60 credits)
All students produce a supervised research dissertation/project of 15,000 - 20,000 words. Students may pick their own topics subject to approval. Students generally undertake topics which might assist them in their intended field of employment, or as suggested by their home agencies or governments.


Students will undertake a practical dissertation project over one year where they will have support from the first stage on research methods and guidance on their research proposal through the final stage.

Each of the four taught modules will be taught over two terms to enable students to absorb and reflect on their learning. The three compulsory modules will provide students with the core knowledge, while choosing one out of two options will enable students to specialise in their area of interest.

Effective Interaction

In additions, the design addresses the need for effective interaction with and among students via live online office hours with lecturers, who will also provide timely feedback on students’ regular short assignments, where they demonstrate understanding of key concepts.

Online Resources

To further utilise the online platform, students learning will be supported by the use of specialised analysis software tools in intelligence and they will engage with multimedia material where possible. Moreover, students will have access – via the integrated online platform – to supportive teaching materials and workshops provided by Brunel Graduate School and the several units of Brunel Educational Excellence Centre.

Students will have access to Online Journals, E-Books, Digital Copies, and other online materials (such as government declassified documents).


All modules are taught on the basis of lectures, seminars and directed reading. Additionally, the second term Case Studies course is a student-led seminar programme in which participants present detailed case studies and are peer reviewed on their presentation skills.

The second term Analytical Simulation Exercise will involve students working in groups in a simulated joint, all-source intelligence assessment modelled on the actual joint assessment processes in the US and UK governments. Students are assessed on a mixture of individual and group work.

Special Features

The Brunel Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies is Britain's first academic centre dedicated to intelligence scholarship and policy-analysis. It includes one of Britain's most innovative scholars in the field, Dr Philip H J Davies, as well Dr Kristian Gustafson (director of the MA programme), an expert on covert action and military intelligence doctrine. The newest member of staff is Mohamed Gaballa. An alumni of the MA, he is a specialist in Structured Analytic Techniques, with a focus on Analysis of Competing Hypothesis. The former senior military imagery analyst, Geoff Oxlee, OBE, joined BCISS as an Honorary Fellow and completes the core team. Together, these scholars not only produce important original research, published worldwide, but actively contribute to the success of government and business in the UK.

The Centre, though, is an inter-disciplinary endeavour, and includes participation from some of the leading Brunel University London academics in the fields of cryptography, computer networking, imagery, economics and even law. Many of these experts already assist our teaching. As well, the centre benefits from the assistance, from time to time, of various officials of Her Majesty’s Government. MA ISS, therefore, benefits from practitioner input and insight as well as instruction by leading international academics.

Thematic Video Lectures (TVLs):
The thematic video lectures and reading materials will provide grounding in the theoretical, methodological and practical issues upon which good research in intelligence and security studies is conducted. It will focus on providing conceptual mapping to the subject. The Lecturer video interaction with students will be supported by well-structured lecture slides. This is to be followed by problem based learning where students engage in practical exercises, case studies, and simulations.

Residential Block Week (RBWs):
Students join Brunel campus for one week in each year, dedicated to supporting the teaching and assessment. Each module assessment has one element – at least – to be conducted while students are on campus. The week consists of Workshops – involving Presentations and Exercises – that will be used as opportunities to test ‘test-fly’ students’ arguments that they wish to make in their final essay in a setting of open discussion and challenge by their peers as well as academic staff.

RBW (1) covers the two modules of the first year and introducing students to the research methods and support available at Brunel for their practical dissertation. RBW (2) hosts the Syndicate Meetings of Brunel Analytical Simulation Exercise (BASE), where students’ teams engage in discussions and produce their joint assessments.

Attendance of the two RBWs is compulsory. Each student will be hosted in on campus accommodation.

Brunel Analytical Simulation Exercise (BASE):
BASE, the jewel in the MA ISS crown, provides a hands-on, practical experience in the skills and techniques of simulations in intelligence collection and analysis. It provides students with a conceptual understanding of the strengths and pitfalls of collective intelligence analysis, assessment, and decision-making; and gives students first hand insight into the management problems of generating an agreed, collective or joint assessment.

Flexible and Interactive Features
-Online office hours with lecturers,
-Timely feedback on students’ regular short assignments.
-Individual and team assignments.
-Use of multimedia materials and software resources in teaching and assessments.
-Pre-recorded lectures and materials are available throughout the week.
-Materials can be accessed via standard and Apple computer devices.

Visit the Intelligence & Security Studies (Distance Learning) - MA page on the Brunel University London website for more details!




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