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Knightley Papers: 2020 Edition

The Strategy and Security Institute (SSI) at the University of Exeter delivers a unique MA in applied security strategy (the MStrat). Our proven academic/practitioner experiential learning model creates a stimulating environment in which to learn and hone the skills required in any profession where the creation and implementation of strategy (not simply its study) is needed to provide a competitive ‘edge’.

This collection of selected papers from Cohort Number 7 illustrates both the breadth and quality of our students’ research. These papers are the culmination of an intensive year of study, group practical work and debate, delivered at our purpose-designed base in Knightley House and during extensive field trips (sadly curtained during this pandemic year).

On behalf of SSI’s core staff and our extensive Honorary network, which adds so much to the programme, I hope that you enjoy reading them. You will see why MStrat graduates are highly rated and why so many secure key positions across the public and private sectors in UK and internationally.

Sir Paul Newton, Director.  December 2020

The 21st Century European Gas Market: A Dangerous Interdependence?    Graham Earley drew on extensive experience in the oil industry to explore the subject of strategic inter-dependence against a backdrop of a US Administration that was pressing the Europeans to do more to contribute to their own security. He conceptualised a new prism; ‘geoeconomics’ and used it as a way of looking at and better understanding the complex dilemmas posed by the Nordstream 2 deal between Russia and Germany. The paper fuses a practitioner’s pragmatism with rigorous academic research. The result is crisp and clear: it certainly helped me understand the issue; hopefully it will similarly assist others. 

The effect of emerging technologies on the offence-defence balance and deterrence: Cyber offence, lethal autonomous weapons systems and hypersonic glide vehicles.   Alex Hitchcock came to SSI having graduated in Classics at the University of Exeter. Alex would not mind me noting that he became well-known in Cohort 7 for his direct, astute style of questioning and for his provocative (but constructive) perspectives. He applied similar rigour and challenge to his own work, as this paper shows. It analyses the implications new technologies have on the assumptions that under-pin the traditional theory of deterrence. His conclusions are both fascinating and troubling. They should be of interest to students of strategy and to policymakers alike.

To what extent will the development of Artificial Intelligence change the nature of war and what are the strategic security implications for the United Kingdom?   Ali Morton is a serving officer in the UK Armed Forces. She won the Director’s Prize for MStrat 7 having contributed throughout the course in an exemplary manner. She somehow also found the time to play a leading part in the Chief of the Air Staff’s annual Air Power Conference. Her dissertation explores the impact of Artificial Intelligence on the classic model of ‘warfare’, long-regarded as a human-centric endeavour. When many pundits and industry special interest groups are advocating investing in technology as a panacea, Ali reaches a more nuanced conclusion.

Understanding the problem of relative gains in international climate change negotiations: Can realism help explain the failure of the international climate regime?  Olav Orgland is a Norwegian who completed his degree in history at Exeter before attending the MStrat. He produced some of the most profound strategic insights of the year: he certainly made me re-consider some of my long-held assumptions. His paper illustrates the breadth of the MStrat, addressing as it does how the international system deals (or not) with strategic trans-national challenges, in this case, climate change. As Olav notes, this will be one of the defining strategic issues of the Century. Surely, international Treaties must be a good thing? His paper looks at this question from a different and pragmatic angle. 

Should NATO adopt a joint offensive Cyber capability?   James Prideaux left SSI on successful completion of the MStrat to join a major consulting firm in London, where he now works in the Defence and Security sectors. His paper explores the requirement for and obstacles to NATO adopting an offensive cyber capability, rather than relying on the sovereign capabilities that individual member states may choose to develop. As we try to pierce the jargon of ‘Multi-Domain Operations’ and ‘Information Manoeuvre’, James’ research helps frame the practical strategic difficulties facing an Alliance that is being pressed to demonstrate its relevance in the 21st Century.

Socio-economic consequences of Border Porosity for Sierra Leone’s National Security:   Issa Thullah won a place as a Chevening Scholar. Seconded to the MStrat from the National Security Secretariat of Sierra Leone, Issa participated in and contributed fully to all aspects of the programme; but naturally Issa used the year at Knightley to hone the skills required of a senior strategy professional. This paper analyses a set of cross-border challenges to Sierra Leone’s national security. It is an academically-rich topic, encompassing such notions as globalization and inter-dependence. It is also highly relevant, given that all three of the County’s most turbulent episodes in the past 30 years involved porous state borders.


The 2021/22 MStrat (Cohort 8) will be recruiting in the New Year. To discuss the programme and whether it might meet your academic and career needs please feel free to contact the Academic Director, Dr Martin Robson.

Date: 14 December 2020

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