Defence Policy and Strategy Making POLITIC4169

  • Academic Session: 2019-20
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

This is an introduction to the theory and practice of defence policy making and of strategy making. Both are considered in two ways: long-term planning leading to strategic concepts, national security concepts and the like, and the ad hoc decision making in reaction to crises and other external factors.


This course may not be running this year. For further information please check the Politics Moodle page or contact the subject directly.

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements

Entry to Honours Politics requires a grade point average of 12 (Grade C) over Politics 2A and Politics 2B as a first attempt

Excluded Courses





Formative Assessment

Students are required to write one a formative essay of 500 words, for students to receive feedback before submitting their summative essay.

Summative Assessment

One essay, of 2500 words (50% of the overall mark), excluding footnote references and bibliography.

One 2-hour exam with two questions (50% of the final mark).

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable for Honours courses


Course Aims

This is an introduction to policy making in the defence sector. It marries the theory of how defence policy and strategy should be made to the actual working of this government sector. The theory often diverges greatly from the practice, as many theoreticians have not experienced the inside workings of governments and alliances. The course aims to introduce students to the multiple pressure but also the procedural and institutional determinants of policy-making.


Typical questions include: What is strategy? How does strategy-making work in theory? What does 'defence policy making' cover? What is the position of defence ministries and the armed forces within a state and its government? How is a Strategic Concept drafted? What are the considerations flowing into it? How does a Strategic Concept differ from 'a strategy' in a particular conflict? Case studies will be considered.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to:

■ Demonstrate a critical analytical understanding of the policy making process in the defence sector in a number of countries, including Britain, France, the USA, Germany;

■ Understand and engage with theoretical approaches to strategy making;

■ Explain the divergence between theory and practice of strategy making in concrete cases;

■ Contextualise strategy making and defence policy making in the larger context of government policy making (a.k.a. public policy);

■ Advance reasoned and factually supported arguments, both orally and in writing;

Critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of different theories and explanations of how defence policy and strategy is made.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.