Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law

School of Politics and International Studies

MA Security, Terrorism and Insurgency

Drawing on the School’s research strengths in international security and sub-state conflicts, this programme addresses the phenomena of terrorism and insurgency in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

It will introduce you to the history of terrorism, from state sponsored terrorism in the Cold War period and urban terrorists in Western Europe to the emergence of radical Islamism in the form of Al-Qaeda and ISIS. You will explore the dilemmas of preserving democratic liberties whilst developing counter-terrorism strategies and assessing the necessity and effectiveness of anti-terrorism legislation in the UK, the US and beyond.

You will consider the wider political context and causes of radicalisation and terrorist violence, including the analysis of situations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria and Iraq as well as an in-depth study of the geo-politics of the Middle East.

Academic excellence

Our department is one of the largest and most diverse in the UK and our academics are widely recognised as leading experts in their field. Our research-led teaching is directly informed by the cutting-edge research that occurs around research clusters on ‘The Responsibility to Protect and Prosecute’ and ‘Contemporary Democracy and Authoritarianism’ as well as the Middle East Research Group.

The key strength of our research culture is an approach to academic enquiry which openly embraces normative and empirical approaches in the study of terrorism, insurgency, UK and US foreign policies, security governance in fragile states, post-Cold War conceptions of international society at a global level, as well as within the context of regional politics in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and East and Southeast Asia.

This unique programme offers you not only the chance to delve deep into the academic analysis of (counter-) terrorism and (counter-) insurgency, but also provides you with the freedom to develop your expertise on a range of security challenges on a global (climate change, conflict resolution, globalisation and conflict, human rights, poverty, post-conflict reconstruction, religious radicalism) and regional level.

The compulsory modules studied will give you the opportunity to:

  • go beyond political polemics and media platitudes
  • develop a robust and nuanced understanding of terrorism and insurgencies as national, regional and global security threats
  • gain an appreciation of the political, legal and ethical dilemmas, which democracies and authoritarian regimes, in both the developed and developing world, face in dealing with terrorist and insurgent tactics and strategies.

You will also be able to hone your research and writing skills in your compulsory dissertation – an independent piece of research on your chosen topic.

The wide-ranging list of optional modules means that you can explore a diverse range of related subjects of interest to you.

If you are a part-time student, you will take 30 credits worth of compulsory modules and choose 30 credits worth of optional modules in your first year. You will then take the compulsory dissertation module and 60 credits worth of optional modules in your second year to complete your programme.

Course structure

These are typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions.

Year 1

Compulsory modules

  • Insurgency 15 credits
  • Terrorism 15 credits
  • POLIS MA Dissertation 60 credits

Optional modules

  • Conflict, Complex Emergencies and Global Governance 30 credits
  • European Defence and Security Analysis 30 credits
  • The Rise of China 30 credits
  • American Foreign Policy 30 credits
  • Contemporary Politics of the Middle East 30 credits
  • The Politics of the Israel-Palestine Conflict 30 credits
  • Policing Post-Conflict Cities 15 credits
  • Counterterrorism 15 credits
  • Theoretical Approaches in International Relations 30 credits
  • Civil War and Intrastate Conflict 30 credits
  • Global Justice 30 credits

Learning and teaching

Teaching is through a combination of lectures, lively seminar discussions and guided weekly readings. We expect you to participate fully in taught sessions and to study independently, developing your skills and preparing for lectures and seminars.

You will also be able to benefit from an impressive range of research talks and seminars led by outside speakers or colleagues from within the department and University.


Within modules, assessment currently consists exclusively of assessed essays. At the end of your studies, a 12,000 word dissertation will allow you to pursue your own research interest under close supervision by one of our expert colleagues.

Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in a related discipline, an equivalent professional qualification or relevant experience.

We accept a range of international equivalent qualifications. For more information contact the School of Politics and International Studies admissions team.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English

If English is not your first language, you may be able to take a pre-sessional course before you begin your studies. This can help if you:

  • don't meet the English language requirements for your course or
  • want to improve your understanding of academic language and practices in your area of study.

Our pre-sessional courses are designed with a progression route to the degree programme and are tailored to the subject area. For information and entry requirements, read Language for Communication and Society (6 weeks) and Language for Social Science and Arts: Communication and Society (10 weeks).

How to apply

Application deadlines

UK/EU students: 31 July

International students: 30 June

Documents and information you’ll need

  • A completed application form
  • A copy of your degree certificate or equivalent, as well as a copy of the transcript of your grades (or partial transcript if you’re still studying) certified by the awarding institution
  • Two references
  • Evidence of your English language qualifications, if English isn’t your first language.

This link takes you to information on applying for taught programmes and to the University's online application system.
If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.


The School of POLIS doesn’t typically interview applicants; however, in certain circumstances programme leaders may invite you to an interview as part of the selection procedure. This may allow us to further assess your aptitude and interest in the programme if your circumstances are not straightforward. If invited to an interview, you will receive an email invitation from the School to attend on a specific date. We will do our best to accommodate requests for an alternative date but this cannot be guaranteed.

Admissions policy

School of Politics and International Studies Taught Postgraduate Admissions Policy


UK/EU: £7,500 (total)

International: £16,000 (total)

Read more about paying fees and charges.

For fees information for international taught postgraduate students, read Masters fees.

Part-time fees are normally calculated based on the number of credits you study in a year compared to the equivalent full-time course. For example, if you study half the course credits in a year, you will pay half the full-time course fees for that year.

Additional cost information

There may be additional costs related to your course or programme of study, or related to being a student at the University of Leeds. Read more about additional costs

Scholarships and financial support

POLIS Scholarships

POLIS offers one full-fees scholarship for UK/EU applicants wishing to study a full-time Masters.

For applicants who are nationals of China, Japan, Nigeria, India and South Korea and wishing to study a full-time Masters, POLIS offers up to five scholarships to the value of £3000.

Find out further details of the POLIS Excellence Scholarships schemes.

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There may be help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.  Find out more at Masters funding overview.

Career opportunities

This programme provides you with an ideal preparation for a career in the international political arena.

Our graduates have pursued a range of exciting and high-profile careers within academia, think tanks and other organisations. These include: teaching and research positions at universities in the UK, US, Europe and Africa; the public sector in the UK (such as UK Border Agency), Europe (including the External Action Service) and Africa (such as police forces); globally operating consultancy and publishing firms; transnational civil society organisations; and the United Nations.

Many graduates continue to pursue their research interests as PhD students.

Careers support

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. Thats one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more at the Careers website.

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