Skip to Content

Violence, Terrorism and Security (MA)

MA|Postgraduate Taught

Violence, Terrorism and Security

Entry year
Entry requirements
1 year (Full Time)
3 years (Part Time)
Places available
30 (Full Time)
30 (Part Time)
This course is now closed to applications for September 2021. If you are interested in September 2022 entry, please register your interest.
  • Overview

    Political violence, terrorism, and civil conflict have seriously affected the lives of millions of people around the world. Moreover, the legacy of 9/11, the rise of groups like ISIS in Syria and Iraq, and the emergence of far-right groups in the West have brought questions about the nature, evolution, causes, and consequences of non-state political violence to the forefront of academic, policymaking, media, and popular debates. Similarly, security responses to these challenges feature prominently in global politics. Governments pursue security strategies to preserve order and protect their citizens. Yet many governments also participate in conflict and political violence by holding onto power and preserving systemic injustices.

    The MA in Violence, Terrorism and Security at Queen’s University Belfast provides you the tools to understand and critically engage with these issues. It equips you with the foundations and the most up-to-date research and methodologies in the fields of terrorism studies, security studies and conflict analysis. This programme helps students develop a critical and analytical approach to the study of the use of political violence and terrorism in history and the contemporary world. The MA in Violence, Terrorism and Security also challenges accepted wisdom and opens debate about the role of violence in relation to political power in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. It assesses state responses to the threat of terrorism and the challenge for security.

    This programme provides you with the essential transferable skills and in-depth knowledge of theories and issues in the areas of violence, security, and terrorism for career development at any stage, from students straight from an undergraduate degree with limited to no prior professional experience, to those seeking continued professional development. This programme enables you to broaden your horizons providing you with a competitive edge in a global graduate market in a wide variety of areas such as the security sector, including intelligence agencies, government agencies and public office, the military, NGOs, academia, businesses and corporations, and the media among many other possibilities

    Violence, Terrorism and Security highlights

    This programme offers a unique opportunity to develop your knowledge, understanding, transferable skills and critical engagement with central issues in the study of political violence and terrorism as well as state responses to these challenges.

    Global Opportunities

    • Located in Belfast, Northern Ireland we offer a unique opportunity for our students to access and engage with a community context previously challenged by violence, terrorism, and security as part of the programme of study. Our students have the opportunity to live and study in a post-conflict environment with access to guest lecturers who were involved in Northern Irish conflict, the peace process, and including researchers, policy makers to ex-combatants.

    Career Development

    • The programme provides you with a competitive edge in a global graduate market in a wide variety of areas such as the security sector, including intelligence agencies, government agencies and public office, the military, NGOs, academia, businesses and corporations, and the media.

    World Class Facilities

    • Queen’s University Belfast campus is at the heart of Belfast’s culture, as well as it’s art and social scenes. We’re proud to be part of a bustling, cosmopolitan city boasting a vibrant social life and rich cultural heritage. The McClay Library, which opened in 2009, blends the best features of a traditional library with the latest technology. It brings together wide-ranging library, computing and media services in a single location as well as offering study facilities suitable for quiet study and group work. Queen's University Belfast is a member of the Russell Group, combining excellence in research and education with a student-centred ethos.
    • We have a world class Graduate School. The Graduate School provides an exclusive postgraduate hub that values the needs of our students. Queen’s was ranked 3rd out of 199 universities worldwide and 2nd out of 44 UK universities for our Graduate School.

    Internationally Renowned Experts

    • Our teaching staff have global standing as experts in their field. They regularly interface with policymakers, state governments, and sectoral actors giving expert advice and expertise to the field. We also have excellent links to our Research Institutes, such as the Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. Queen’s is ranked in the top 75 universities in Europe for Teaching Excellent (Times Higher Education, 2019). Politics was ranked joint 1st in the UK for Research Intensity (Complete University Guide, 2021). Queen’s is ranked 14th in the UK for research quality (Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020).

    Student Experience

    • Located in Belfast, Northern Ireland we offer a unique opportunity for our students to access and engage with a community context previously challenged by violence, terrorism and security as part of the programme of study. Our students have the opportunity to live and study in a post-conflict environment. We also hold numerous events and guest lecturers who were involved in Northern Irish conflict, the peace process, and including researchers, policymakers to ex-combatants. We offer an optional extra-curricular custom-designed field visit to Brussels organised by our partners in the Leuven Institute where students engage with counterterrorism experts, security practitioners in NATO, EU Commission and various NGOs. This optional extra is subsidised but will incur some additional costs. Our programme attracts international award holders of the highest calibre, including Marshall and Mitchell scholars. Study with like-minded students from various backgrounds in VTS. Some of our students have previous experience in the United Nations, national police forces, military, among many others, before coming to study with us. Study with like-minded student from various backgrounds.
  • Course content

    Course Structure

    The Master’s degree (MA) in Violence, Terrorism and Security is awarded to students who successfully complete six core taught modules/classes and the MA dissertation.

    Course StructureStudents take 6 modules across 2 semesters. Students take 3 required core modules in the Autumn semester. Then students take 1 required core module and 2 elective modules in the Spring semester. Students complete a dissertation of no more than 15,000 words over the summer semester.
    Semester One (Autumn)Core Modules
    PAI7028 - Violence, Terrorism and Security
    HAP7001 - Approaches to Research Design
    PAI7051 - Contemporary Security
    Semester Two (Spring)Core Modules

    One core module: PAI7007 - Global Terrorism


    Elective modules offer the chance to specialise in a particular area of interest, build on foundational knowledge, and develop focused expertise. Student must take two modules from the following list:

    PAI7027 - Conflict Intervention
    PAI7030 - International Political Economy
    PAI7032 - Gender, Politics and Democracy
    PHL7038 - Philosophy of Conflict and War
    PAI7050 - Ethnic Conflict and Consensus: The Power of Institutions
    PAI7036 - The Politics and Political Economy of Energy and Low Carbon Energy Transitions
    PAI7058 - From Cold War to Cold Peace: The Transformation of the International Order (1979-1999)
    ANT7023 - Anthropology of Conflict
    CSJ7008 - Conflict Mediation
    LAW7815 - Counterterrorism and Human Rights
    LAW7816 - Comparative Human Rights

    * Please note that this is an indication of the available elective modules in MA in Violence, Terrorism and Security. There may be other modules available to take, and in some years one or two of these may not be available (due to staff sabbatical, etc.).
    Summer - DissertationOver the summer term students complete a 15,000 word MA dissertation

    Some recent MA VTS dissertation topics have included:
    • ISIS and discourses of violence
    • Gender, agency, and terrorism
    • UK counterterrorism policy
    • Counterinsurgency and targeted assassinations
    • Covert Intelligence and Collusion
    • Cultures of Youth Violence
    • Cyber-terrorism
    • Gender and counterterrorism
    • Light arms proliferations
    • NATO expansion and Ukraine
    • New Terrorism and ISIS
    • Paramilitary recruitment
    • Policing Private Military Companies and Africa
    • Radicalisation and Recruitment
    • Religious Diplomacy and Paramilitary movements
    • Security and Development
    • Security Sector Reform
    • State power and the intelligence community
    • Taliban, counterinsurgency, and narco-terrorism
    • Transitions from terrorism: ETA and the IRA compared
    • UK Government PREVENT policy
    • US Counter-terrorism strategies
    • US Domestic Terrorism
    Supplementary InformationAdditional information about the content of some of our core modules:

    - PAI 7028 Violence, Terrorism, and Security (Autumn semester requirement): The concepts that are at the heart of this core module, "violence", "terrorism", and "security", can each have different meanings across time and at various political levels. There are also multiple approaches and ways to examine these phenomena. The central goals of this module are to provide an introduction to the various sets of literature in these areas and provide a grounding for the MA in Violence, Terrorism and Security. More specifically, this class will familiarize students with different concepts, approaches, and methods to the study of political violence, terrorism, low-intensity conflict, civil war, security among others. It is designed to provide an overview of these very important issues.

    - PAI7051 Contemporary Security (Autumn semester requirement): In this module we will explore a range of contemporary issues and practices in international security politics. We will be drawing on both theoretical and empirical material to engage the shifting politics of security. This module address both ‘domestic’ and ‘international’ contemporary security issues and the ways in which these are increasingly connected in both theory and practice. Moreover, it will introduce students to the inter-disciplinary nature of engagements with security (from politics to geography to technology). Students will be introduced to the core concepts and differences between ‘traditional’ rationalist theories of security and the emergence and development of various critical studies in security. They will be offered tools to examine key contemporary issues in security that may include: sovereignty; uncertainty, the security dilemma and risk; non-proliferation and disarmament; war; migration and borders; surveillance and security; environmental security; poverty, food, and human security; gender and security; racism; among others. Students will therefore engage critically with the intersections of theory and practice, domestic and international, and state and human securities, and be able to understand contemporary transformations of security in relation to power, sovereignty, mobilities, and technology.

    - HAP7001 Research Design (Autumn semester requirement): Research design is often equated with the term ‘methodology’. While often presented in complex ways, the importance of this can be put simply. Research design and methodology are about structuring your research in such a way that fellow academic researchers can have confidence in your findings. All researchers should therefore be able to tell, and where necessary justify to, their peers how they approached their research, how they set up the question of interest, and how they actually went about researching the topic and collecting the material which they will analyse. This module therefore has two key purposes. First it addresses fundamental issues such as the source of social scientific knowledge, the relation between scholarly research and social progress, and the possibility of eliminating bias in political analysis, both through a study of the philosophy of science and research, and through case studies of research in practice. Second, it develops students’ skills in research design through an examination of selected qualitative and quantitative research methodologies.

    - PAI 7007 Global Terrorism (Spring semester requirement): This module provides an advanced, multidisciplinary introduction to the phenomenon of terrorism and its study. We begin by engaging with the conceptual, ethical and political challenges associated with the idea of terrorism and consider how these lead to alternative forms of research, explanation and analysis. Specifically, we look at 'essentially contested' character of terrorism as a concept, then familiarise ourselves with the terms of that contestation with particular reference to the historical development of terrorism as a tactic; media and communication; the role of the state and state-society relations; and the politics of counterterrorism. Throughout, we a take a global view of our subject, situating patterns and perceptions of political violence within global and transnational processes. In doing so, we create opportunities to better understand their development and interrogate the role of cultural and social difference, particularly in reference to colonial legacies, 'Lone Actor' attacks, 'Suicide Terrorism', the evolution of transnational Islamic militancy and the resurgence of extreme right-wing violence. The course ends by looking at the Northern Irish Troubles and the Peace Process from the perspective of recent research on how terror campaigns end.

    People teaching you

    Programme Convenor

    Dr Andrew Thomson is a Senior Lecturer at Queen’s University Belfast and a Fellow at the Senator George J. Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. He is the convenor/director of the MA in Violence, Terrorism and Security and among the many staff that teach in this programme. His research interests include pro-government militias and civilian defence forces, dynamics of violence in civil war, counterinsurgency and "irregular" warfare, and state violence. Andrew is an expert on militias and mercenaries in US foreign policy. His book, Outsourced Empire: How Militias, Mercenaries and Contractors Support US Statecraft, examined various non-state armed forces in US-led interventions around the world. Andrew is also well-known for his work on civilian self-defence forces. He is interested in how using civilians as combatants or security forces in counterinsurgency settings, as in Iraq with the Sons of Iraq program, affect insurgent targets of violence. Finally, he also focuses on the current peace process in Colombia in the context of multiple armed groups. He recently completed a project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund on how FARC members’ interactions with other armed organisations influenced their disarmament process. He is also on the governing council of the Conflict Research Society (CRS).

    Senior Lecturer

    Dr Heather Johnson’s research focuses on irregular migration and asylum seekers, border security, and the practices of resistance, solidarity and protest of non-citizens. She is interested in developing new understandings of mobility and non-citizenship, and particularly in new methods for engaging with these issues. Email:


    Dr Jamie Hagen's research is at the intersection of gender, security studies and queer theory. She researches LGBTQ inclusion in Women, Peace and Security practices as well as queer analysis of security studies more broadly. She is Co-Director of the Centre for Gender in Politics. Email:

    Senior Lecturer

    Dr Keith Breen’s research areas are political and social theory, his focus being questions of political ethics and philosophies of work and economic organization.


    Dr Maria Deiana's research deploys feminist and other critical perspectives to examine the interrelated issues of war, peace, security. Her monograph titled 'Gender and Citizenship: Promises of Peace in Post-Dayton Bosnia & Herzegovina' was published by Palgrave in 2018. She is Co-Director of the Centre for Gender in Politics. Email:


    Dr Mike Bourne’s research focuses on a wide range of security issues. He is interested in critical security theories, and the relations of materiality, technology, and violence. His work has engaged issues of arms control (from small arms to nuclear weapons), illicit trafficking, border control, and technology development. Email:

    Senior Lecturer

    Dr Shane Brighton researches the field of relations between armed conflict, identity and society. He has written on the philosophy and sociology of war, terrorism and counterterrorism and contemporary strategic debates. This work has particular relevance for understanding how societal dynamics relate to armed forces and foreign, defence and security policy. Email:

    Senior Lecturer

    Dr Timofey Agarin is interested in relationships between the state and society, interrelations between the majority and the minority, issues relating to non-discrimination in the wider Europe and the impact of European integration broadly conceived on societal change and dynamics in political institutions. Email:


    Professor Debbie Lisle’s research in critical International Relations and International Political Sociology explores issues of difference, mobility, security, travel, visuality, governmentality, biopolitics, materiality, technology, borders, practice and power.


    Professor Richard English's research focuses on the politics and history of nationalism, political violence, and terrorism, with a particular focus on Ireland and Britain.

    Teaching Times

    Morning / Afternoon / Evening Each class/module usually consists of 2-4 contact teaching hours per week, depending on the module. Most study, however, consists of independent research and reading.

    Career Prospects

    The MA in Violence, Terrorism and Security provides you with the essential transferable skills and in-depth knowledge of theories and issues in the areas of violence, security, and terrorism for career development at any stage, from students straight from an undergraduate degree with limited to no prior professional experience to those seeking continued professional development. Our programme enables you to broaden your horizons providing you with a competitive edge in a global graduate market in a wide variety of areas such as the security sector, including intelligence agencies, government agencies and public office, the military, NGOs, academia, businesses and corporations, and the media among many other possibilities.

    Some of our graduates now serve in the most senior ranks of a number of National Police Services, and Law Enforcement Agencies, Border and Immigration Control, National Armed Forces including the US Army, US Air Force, British Army and Irish Defence Forces. Graduates also work as senior government policy advisers, in international NGOs and the media.

    Queen’s is ranked in the top 140 in the world for graduate prospects (QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2020).

    Learning and Teaching

    Classes/modules involve a variety of teaching approaches designed to inspire critical and transferable skills.

    There also are multiple talks, events, and extra-curricular activities and training courses on campus each year, outside of the formal VTS programme, that are related to Violence, Terrorism and Security.

    Subject Specific Skills

    Students will gain in-depth knowledge and understanding of political violence, terrorism, and security across many cases around the world. Students will be familiar with theoretical and empirical issues at different stages in the conflict cycle, including the outbreak, development, and resolution of armed civil conflicts and use of terrorism. Students will gain an understanding of, and be able to critically engage with, the main concepts in these fields (such as “terrorism”, “radicalisation”, “security”, “peace”, etc.), the main theories (such as the causes of terrorism, the dynamics of civil conflict, approaches to counter-terrorism), and some issues and debates (such as the trade-off between security and liberty inherent with some counterterrorism tactics).

    Transferable Skills

    Students will also acquire a series of transferable skills that can be applied in a variety of contexts and career pathways.

    Upon successful completion of the programme, students will be able to reason critically; apply relevant theoretical concepts; identify and solve problems; analyse and interpret data; demonstrate and exercise independence of thought; work independently; participate constructively in groups; manage their time effectively and work to deadlines.

    Students will also be able to retrieve, sift and select information from a variety of sources plan and execute a piece of independent research; devise viable research proposals; apply various different research methodologies and approaches; identify appropriate research techniques relative to overall research design; appreciate, and display an understanding of, comprehensive qualitative and quantitative research design.


    Students are provided a range of assessment approaches, both formal and informal as well as formative and summative in order to enhance the student learning experience and improve student attainment. Each module typically consists of two or three main pieces of assessment, one worth 40% of your mark for that class/module and another worth 60%.

    • Essays
    • Policy reports
    • Simulations
    • Presentations

  • Entry Requirements

    Entrance requirements

    Normally a 2.1 Honours degree or above, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in a Social Sciences, Humanities or Arts subject, or a 2.1 Honours degree or above, or equivalent qualification acceptable to the University in any subject with relevant professional experience.

    The University's Recognition of Prior Learning Policy provides guidance on the assessment of experiential learning (RPEL). Please visit for more information.

    Applicants are advised to apply as early as possible and ideally no later than 12th August 2022 for courses which commence in late September. In the event that any programme receives a high number of applications, the University reserves the right to close the application portal. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Application Portal against the programme application page.

    International Students

    Our country/region pages include information on entry requirements, tuition fees, scholarships, student profiles, upcoming events and contacts for your country/region. Use the dropdown list below for specific information for your country/region.

    English Language Requirements

    Evidence of an IELTS* score of 6.5, with not less than 5.5 in any component, or an equivalent qualification acceptable to the University is required (*taken within the last 2 years).

    International students wishing to apply to Queen's University Belfast (and for whom English is not their first language), must be able to demonstrate their proficiency in English in order to benefit fully from their course of study or research. Non-EEA nationals must also satisfy UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) immigration requirements for English language for visa purposes.

    For more information on English Language requirements for EEA and non-EEA nationals see:

    If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this degree programme, INTO Queen's University Belfast offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for admission to this degree.

    • Academic English: an intensive English language and study skills course for successful university study at degree level
    • Pre-sessional English: a short intensive academic English course for students starting a degree programme at Queen's University Belfast and who need to improve their English.

    INTO - English Language Course(QSIS ELEMENT IS EMPTY)

  • Fees and Funding

    Tuition Fees

    Northern Ireland (NI) 1 £6,650
    Republic of Ireland (ROI) 2 £6,650
    England, Scotland or Wales (GB) 1 £7,470
    EU Other 3 £18,200
    International £18,200

    1 EU citizens in the EU Settlement Scheme, with settled status, will be charged the NI or GB tuition fee based on where they are ordinarily resident. Students who are ROI nationals resident in GB will be charged the GB fee.

    2 EU students who are ROI nationals resident in ROI are eligible for NI tuition fees, in line with the Common Travel Agreement arrangements.

    3 EU Other students (excludes Republic of Ireland nationals living in GB, NI or ROI) are charged tuition fees in line with international fees.

    All tuition fees quoted are for the academic year 2022-23, and relate to a single year of study unless stated otherwise. Tuition fees will be subject to an annual inflationary increase, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

    More information on postgraduate tuition fees.

    Additional course costs

    All Students

    Depending on the programme of study, there may be extra costs which are not covered by tuition fees, which students will need to consider when planning their studies.

    Students can borrow books and access online learning resources from any Queen's library. If students wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow them from the University Library, prices per text can range from £30 to £100. Students should also budget between £30 to £75 per year for photocopying, memory sticks and printing charges.

    Students undertaking a period of work placement or study abroad, as either a compulsory or optional part of their programme, should be aware that they will have to fund additional travel and living costs.

    If a programme includes a major project or dissertation, there may be costs associated with transport, accommodation and/or materials. The amount will depend on the project chosen. There may also be additional costs for printing and binding.

    Students may wish to consider purchasing an electronic device; costs will vary depending on the specification of the model chosen.

    There are also additional charges for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines.

    Violence, Terrorism and Security costs

    There are no specific additional course costs associated with this programme.

    How do I fund my study?

    The Department for the Economy will provide a tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 per NI / EU student for postgraduate study. Tuition fee loan information.

    A postgraduate loans system in the UK offers government-backed student loans of up to £10,609 for taught and research Masters courses in all subject areas. Criteria, eligibility, repayment and application information are available on the UK government website.

    More information on funding options and financial assistance.

    International Scholarships

    Information on scholarships for international students, is available at

  • Apply

    How to Apply

    Apply using our online Postgraduate Applications Portal and follow the step-by-step instructions on how to apply.

    Apply now

    When to Apply

    The deadline for applications is normally 30th June 2021. In the event that any programme receives a high volume of applications, the university reserves the right to close the application portal earlier than 30th June deadline. Notifications to this effect will appear on the Direct Entry Portal (DAP) against the programme application page.

    Terms and Conditions

    The terms and conditions that apply when you accept an offer of a place at the University on a taught programme of study.
    Queen's University Belfast Terms and Conditions.

    Download a prospectus