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Intelligence and Security Studies (Distance Learning) MA

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Subject area: History Subject area: Politics and International Relations
Study mode

2 years distance learning

PG code



One residential week each year

Start date


Study location

Distance Learning


Upcoming webinars:

We regularly host online webinars to give you the chance to find out more about our courses and what studying at Brunel is like.

For a playback of our recent Intelligence and security Studies Postgraduate webinar, click here.

Postgraduate Loans: From 1 August 2018 , students who live in England will be able to apply for a Postgraduate Loan in academic year 2018/19 of up to £10,609. Find out more

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.


Contact our Enquiries team.
Course Enquiries: +44 (0)1895 265599 (before you submit an application)
Admissions Office: +44 (0)1895 265265 (after you submit an application)

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


Intelligence Concepts: Issues and Institutions

This module covers the core theoretical concepts in intelligence and principal intelligence production methods and processes in the first term. In the second term it examines how those processes are put into practice through the organisational structure of national intelligence agencies and communities.

Intelligence History: Failure and Success

This module takes students through the history of the practice of intelligence from “Plato to NATO”, or ancient times to the modern days, linking political, social and technological factors into a greater understanding of the profession. The second term is largely student-led, individual students presenting case studies, improving their own historical understanding while developing their skills at formal presentations in front of critical audiences.

Intelligence and Security Studies Project

Year 2


Contemporary Threats and Analytical Methodology

Students will survey the contemporary threats faced by the UK and other states. With the socio-political changes of “Globalisation” as a point of departure, it seeks to analyse modern organised crime, drug trafficking, terrorism, and insurgency as complex and integrated threats to our security. In the second term of this course students undertake the Brunel Analytical Simulation Exercise (BASE), the jewel in the MA ISS crown. It provides students with an opportunity to undertake a simulated intelligence analysis on a real-world subject. BASE is designed to emulate the interdepartmental assessment methods of the British Joint Intelligence Committee, and gives students a chance to apply hands-on analytical principles and methods they have learned abstractly in the other MA ISS taught courses.

Intelligence and Security Studies Project


Intelligence Analysis Foundations, Methods and Applications

This module examines the core concepts of the cognitive process involved in intelligence analysis and associated cognitive errors and biases, and promotes critical understanding to the effectiveness of different methods of intelligence analysis to domains and applications of intelligence. In the second term it draws lessons from other disciplines and examines the analytical implications of organisational aspects in intelligence. Throughout the module, students engage in case studies and use of open source intelligence OSINT and intelligence analysis techniques.

Counterintelligence and Security

The module aims at introducing counterintelligence as a process and a product and its relationship to national security decision-making while exposing students to the relevant scholarship on the subject. The module is a blend of academic scholarship and professional practice, examining both lessons learned and best practices. This is complemented by classroom discussions on a series of questions related to counterintelligence and cyber security and their use (or non-use) by national security decision-makers."

Read more about the structure of postgraduate degrees at Brunel and what you will learn on the course.

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.


The MA in Intelligence and Security Studies provides solid transferable skills in analysis and drafting, skills whose applicability cuts across a wide range of public and private pursuits. Our students have had great success in seeking employment once they have completed their course. Many have come from, and then continue to work for, government agencies in the UK and abroad — we have taught police, military, and other government officials from the United States, Canada, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Belgium, Turkey, Japan, Jordan, the Philippines, Brunei, Thailand, Indonesia, Korea, Botswana and several other nations beside.

Within the UK, students with no service experience have gone on to work for the British Security Service, the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Centres, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, and other departments of government. Many students have noted to us that the innovative studies they undertook on our programme were important topics of discussion in their interviews. Those already in Government employment have successfully used their MAs to leverage promotion or commissioning.

Students who have sought work in the private sector have likewise had success. Former MAISS students have gone to work for large banks conducting market analysis, to large oil-industry firms, to large consultancies such as McKinsey & Co, to specialist private analysis firms such as MS Risk and cyber security firm Digital Shadows. Indeed, MS Risk have had such success with our graduates that they have offered to fund a prize for the MAISS student who writes the best dissertation, annually.

Overall, MA ISS students have had a strong record of success in the years after their degrees.

At Brunel we provide many opportunities and experiences within your degree programme and beyond – work-based learning, professional support services, volunteering, mentoring, sports, arts, clubs, societies, and much, much more – and we encourage you to make the most of them, so that you can make the most of yourself.

» More about Employability

Entry criteria 2019/20

  • A 2:2 (or above) UK Honours degree or equivalent internationally recognised qualification with an understanding of the realities of academic intelligence and security study and the frameworks within which intelligence and security operations work.
  • Applicants with other qualifications, or with relevant work related experience, will be considered on an individual basis.
  • Applicants will be interviewed by telephone or in person.

Entry criteria are subject to review and change each academic year.

International and EU entry requirements

If your country or institution is not listed or if you are not sure whether your institution is eligible, please contact Admissions

This information is for guidance only by Brunel University London and by meeting the academic requirements does not guarantee entry for our courses as applications are assessed on case-by-case basis.

English language requirements

  • IELTS: 6.5 (min 6 in all areas)
  • Pearson: 58 (51 in all subscores)
  • BrunELT: 65% (min 60% in all areas)

You can find out more about the qualifications we accept on our English Language Requirements page.

If you require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK, you must prove knowledge of the English language so that we can issue you a Certificate of Acceptance for Study (CAS). To do this, you will need an IELTS for UKVI or Trinity SELT test pass gained from a test centre approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) and on the Secure English Language Testing (SELT) list. This must have been taken and passed within two years from the date the CAS is made.

Should you wish to take a pre-sessional English course to improve your English prior to starting your degree course, you must sit the test at an approved SELT provider for the same reason.

We offer our own BrunELT English Test and have pre-sessional English language courses for students who do not meet requirements or who wish to improve their English. You can find out more information on English courses and test options at the Brunel Language Centre.

Teaching and learning

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).

Assessment and feedback

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.

Fees and funding

Fees for 2019/20 entry

UK/EU students: £5,810 distance learning, per year (including one week residential cost)

International students: £10,620 distance learning, per year (including one week residential cost)

Some courses incur additional course related costs.

Read about funding opportunities available to postgraduate students

UK/EU students can opt to pay in six equal monthly instalments: the first instalment is payable on enrolment and the remaining five by Direct Debit or credit/debit card.

Overseas students can opt to pay in two instalments: 60% on enrolment, and 40% in January for students who commence their course in September (or the remaining 40% in March for selected courses that start in January).