The Cambridge Security Initiative
& The Department of War Studies, King’s College London

The International Security and
Intelligence Programme

4th- 30th July 2021- Magdalene College, Cambridge

The Cambridge Security Initiative & The Department of War Studies, King’s College London

The International Security and Intelligence Programme

4th-30th July 2021, Magdalene College, Cambridge

ISI 2021 and Pandemic: Announcement

It is our intention to offer the ISI Programme (and the Conference) in 2021 safely and ideally as a residential programme based at Magdalene College, one the oldest in this collegiate University. It is possible that, in order to allow the Programme to go ahead, participants may be asked to provide proof of vaccination against COVID-19. We will of course keep everyone fully up to date with developments in this regard.Should conditions around the pandemic make it impossible for us to deliver the Programme in Cambridge we will adapt ISI accordingly to ensure that participants have the best possible virtual ISI and Conference 2021. In such a scenario all accommodation fees will be refunded in full.


About ISI

Chaired by  Sir Richard Dearlove, the former Chief of the British Secret Intelligence Service, this four-week Programme provides a unique opportunity to study with leading academics and practitioners from the intelligence and security communities in the historic setting of one of the world’s foremost universities.

Western democracies face diverse and complex challenges which preoccupy the highest levels of government. Themes to be discussed and analysed will include:

  • threats posed by nuclear proliferation, cyber warfare, radicalisation, acts of terrorism, regional insecurity and information operations;
  • the claims of state secrecy and the role of the intelligence and security agencies in a modern democratic society and the intelligence-policy interface;
  • the challenges posed by revolutions and different systems of governance;
  • various mechanisms of intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination, counter-intelligence and covert action;

Teaching is modelled on that offered by Cambridge University, the centre piece of which is supervision, that is small group teaching requiring individual research which is guided by an expert in your chosen field.

All participants attend CSi’s annual two-day Conference which explores Intelligence and National Security Policy in a Changing World.

Applications are invited from students and practitioners with an intellectual or professional interest in statecraft and the interlocking themes of intelligence, security, defence and foreign policy.

Academic Programme

Western democracies face an increasingly diverse and complex range of threats. With a special emphasis on human intelligence, the Programme will explore the issues which preoccupy the highest levels of government.

Key themes will include:

  • the role of intelligence and security agencies,
  • the 21st century threat landscape in an historical perspective,
  • the intelligence cycle,
  • competing claims of state secrecy,
  • information operations,
  • terrorism,
  • topics in regional security,
  • the security implications of digital revolutions.

Intelligence collection, analysis and dissemination remain at the core of the intelligence cycle, while counterintelligence and covert action play more opaque but still vital roles at the heart of the nation state and international alliances. Understanding what intelligence can achieve – and its limitations – will be major themes for discussion.

The Programme hosts a series of outstanding Special Subject Lectures covering a broad range of contemporary intelligence and security issues. These have been given, in recent years, by former Heads of MI5, MI6, GCHQ and the French Security Services; the Chief Judge to the Appeals Court of the United States Armed Forces, and the CIA Deputy Director for Operations, and by leading academics working in the field of Intelligence and Security studies.

Assessment and credit are awarded on the basis of performance in the Programme’s two tracks:

(1) Independent Supervised Research (6.25hrs) which will be assessed by the submission of a c.3,500-word essay.

(2) Topics in International Security and Intelligence (40hrs) which will be assessed by contribution and the submission two c.750-word essays.






ISI is an exceptional experience and I am truly grateful for the time I have spent in Cambridge. The programme offers a unique opportunity for interaction and collaboration between professional practitioners and the academic world. The many accomplished lecturers and guest speakers provide exclusive access to a wealth of knowledge and rare practical experience otherwise difficult to tap into. Furthermore, I believe that the student body itself, spanning multiple countries, a wide variety of professional backgrounds, and all levels of higher education, offer exciting and inspiring new perspectives on contemporary security- and intelligence related issues. Additionally, the programme provides a friendly social environment for forging new professional and personal connections.


Umeå University





Application & Practical Information

Apply for ISI 2021

To apply for ISI 2021 please complete the Application Form. 

All sections with * are required fields.

Additional information about the application process, required documents and payment can be found below.

Please email your application to

By submitting your application you are confirming that you have read, understood and will abide by the ISI Health, Safety and Emergency Protocols and Codes of Conduct, as well as Magdalene College’s Terms, Conditions, Rules and Regulations.

Please keep in mind that you may also have to apply through your University.

Additional contact information can be found on our Contact Us page.


 ISI 2021 will take place between 4th July and 30th July 2021.


Tuition Fees: £2,400 

Includes a minimum of 45hrs tuition, delegate pass to the 2-day Conference and the Conference dinner at one of the Cambridge Colleges. Access to the Cambridge University Library (provided Cambridge University Library allows access by the start of the Programme), academic and pastoral support.

Accommodation Fees: 

Sharing facilities: £1,716
– En-suite facilities: £1,905

Accommodation is optional. If you prefer to find alternative accommodation, or do not require accommodation, you will be asked to indicate this in your application.


Payment Instructions


Founded in 1428, Magdalene College has a rich architectural history, quiet courts and gardens bordering the River Cam from which the City derives its name. The College’s central location provides the ideal base from which to explore the City.

Single occupancy accommodation is offered for the duration of the Programme either with en-suite or shared bathroom facilities. Linens, towels and cleaning services are provided and laundry facilities are available.

There are study and social spaces, wi-fi, a cafe, bar and a fine medieval dining hall. Included in the accommodation fee is a Continental Breakfast everyday and Dinner in College (Sunday – Friday). College life in general, and dining in particular, define the experience of every student at the University of Cambridge, and offering a more comprehensive meal plan will, we hope, move your experience on ISI closer to that of full-time students in Cambridge.

There is a non-resident fee of £250.


Application Documents

Applications are invited from students in full time higher education and professionals. ISI operates a rolling admissions process, so early application is strongly recommended.

Successful applicants will usually have a GPA of well above the 3.3 (or equivalent) requirement and are likely to be in the later stages of an undergraduate course, studying for a Master’s degree, PhD or have graduated. However, it should be stressed that we look carefully at the whole application, not least in the case there might be good reason for a modest GPA.

To be considered for admission, you will need to send supporting documents listed below to

(A) Student Applicants 

  • A Transcript. We will only accept original transcripts as PDF copies emailed directly from your registrar, or scanned copies certified by your Study Abroad Office and emailed from a recognised institutional email address.


  • An Academic Reference. Your referee should be someone who has taught you as part of your degree. References need to be e-mailed directly from the referee using her/his institutional e-mail address. Referees should comment on your academic ability as well as how you will benefit from and contribute to ISI.


  • Your Independent Research Proposal. Please note that you are not required to have completed any previous courses on intelligence and/or security in order to produce an ISI Independent Research Proposal Form. Rather, this is an opportunity for you to explore your academic interests in consultation with the relevant literature. Please refer to the ‘Independent Research Proposal” section below for example proposals from 2019.


  • Proof of English Language Proficiency. This is only required for non-native English speakers studying at Universities whose language of instruction is not English. Please see the ‘English Language Requirement’ section below.


  • A photo of yourself from the shoulders up. Please make sure this is a .jpg file, 300dpi, and 3 ½ x 4 ½ cm. Please email this along with your application.

(B) Professional Applicants 

Please send via email:

  •  An up-to-date CV


  • A reference from an employer/ academic reference



  • A photo of yourself from the shoulders up. Please make sure this is a .jpg file, 300dpi, and 3 ½ x 4 ½ cm. Please email this along with your application.


English Language Requirements

If you are a non-native English speaker studying at a University whose language of instruction is not English it is essential that your English language skills are good enough for you to undertake an intensive and challenging academic course that is taught and assessed in English. You will therefore need to meet the same requirements as a Cambridge undergraduate and to provide evidence of one of the following:

IELTS: Overall score of 7.0 (with at least 7.0 in each of the four components);
TOEFL (paper-based): Overall score of 600 with a Test of Written English score of 5.5;

TOEFL (internet-based): Overall score of 110 with component scores of at least: Listening 22, Reading 24, Speaking 25, and Writing 24
Cambridge English Advanced: Also known as the Certificate of Advanced English (CAE): grade A if taken before January 2015, or a score of at least 185

Cambridge English: Proficiency, also known as the Certificate of Proficiency in English (CPE): grade B if taken before January 2015, or a score of at least 185
English Language GCSE, or O-level: Grade B
International Baccalaureate Standard Level (SL): Score of 5 in English (as Language A or B)
European Baccalaureate: Score of 70% in English
Studied the International Baccalaureate Programme, if it is taught in English
Studied the Singapore Integrated Programme (SIPCAL)

Independent Research Proposal

ISI participants will also follow a research track exploring in detail a particular security or intelligence theme through a series of ‘supervisions’. Supervision, central to Cambridge teaching, brings together a small group of students under the guidance of an expert in the field to conduct research-focused work culminating in the production of an extended essay.


Upon application to ISI, participants will be asked to submit a research proposal and, if successfully admitted to the Programme, will be paired with a CSi expert to undertake a tailored, in-depth study of the chosen security or intelligence theme through five x 1.25hrs taught supervisions.


The following are recommended research topic areas which students are encouraged to bear in mind before they submit their proposals (we will of course endeavour to accommodate proposals that fall outside these areas wherever possible).

Research topics:


  • Information Operations and Disinformation
  • Human Intelligence and Counterintelligence
  • The history of intelligence, deception, and resistance
  • Nuclear intelligence and problems of proliferation
  • Digital and open source intelligence analysis collection
  • Theoretical and ethical considerations in intelligence, surveillance and technology
  • Politics and economics of the Middle East
  • Problems of terrorism and non-state armed groups
  • Cold War intelligence and counterterrorism
  • Intelligence analysis, oversight and the policy interface
  • Intelligence and security communities across the Global South
  • Propaganda, covert action, and counter-insurgency

Download the ISI 2021- Independent Research Proposal Form.

Please email your application to

Examples of Independent Research Proposal Forms from 2019 can be accessed below:




Visa and Insurance Information


Your nationality will determine if you require a short term study visa, if you need to apply for your visa in advance of travel or on arrival in the UK. Please check on the UK Government website at

Short-term study visa requirements:

(i) If you are a ‘Non-Visa National’ you can obtain a short term study visa upon entry to the UK. If you are a Non-Visa National you must request a short term study visa stamp in your passport at the immigration desk on arrival in the UK. You must ensure you are not given a standard visitor stamp.

(ii) If you are a ‘Visa National’ you must apply for a short term study visa before entering the UK.

Regardless of whether you are a Non-Visa National or a Visa National, you will need to provide a Visa Letter and other documents in support of your application. Please check what documents are required on the UK Government website at:

You should indicate that you require a Visa Letter in your application to ISI. If required, we will issue your Visa Letter, but to comply with UK Government regulations only after you have paid your Programme fee. Because immigration officials may not accept copies of Visa Letters, we will send you your Visa Letter by post.

Please ensure you allow sufficient time for the Visa Letter to arrive and, if required, to apply for your visa before travelling.


Before leaving home ISI participants are strongly advised to obtain insurance to adequately cover all international medical and emergency expenses.

While Magdalene College is a controlled site and Cambridge a small city, we recommend your travel insurance also includes cover against loss or damage to your personal belongings while you are travelling to/from the UK and during your stay in the UK.

Only emergency medical treatment is provided to non-UK nationals free of charge through the UK National Health Service. ISI students must therefore obtain their own insurance to adequately cover all international medical and emergency travel expenses, noting the following:

  1. Neither CSi nor Magdalene College will be financially responsible for any medical expenses incurred by ISI students while on the Programme.


  1. Students should also be covered by their own insurance for cancellation or interruption to the Programme as the result of unforeseen circumstances, noting the following: CSi will not be liable for any failure or delay in performing the obligations of this Memorandum caused by acts of God, terrorism, flood, fire, war, public enemy, or other similar catastrophes.


  1. Students must also ensure that they are covered for personal liability and for the loss or theft of personal property, noting the following: Neither CSi nor Magdalene College will be liable for damages caused by Programme Students to their own or other persons and property, including damage due to abuse of alcoholic beverages, medicines, or illegal drugs.  ISI Students will be liable individually for the economic and legal consequences of their personal actions and will be subject to local laws.


By accepting a place on the ISI Programme the participant undertakes to arrange suitable insurance cover as outlined above.




Financial Aid and Scholarships

Financial Aid

If you receive Financial Aid from your home institution, payment of your Programme fee can be deferred until the release date of your Financial Aid. We will ask for a £500 non-refundable deposit, which secures your place on the Programme until your Financial Aid release date. You must, however, pay the balance of your Fee before the start of the Programme. If you receive or expect to receive Financial Aid, please contact us as soon as possible by e-mail at

Sir Richard Dearlove Scholarship

There are three full tuition-fee Scholarships available for students attending the International Security and Intelligence Summer to mark the partnership between the CSi, sponsor of ISI, and King’s College London’s Department of War Studies. The Cambridge Security Initiative welcomes applications for the ISI 2021 Scholarships.

Please complete the form and return to along with your application documents.


 The ISI program was a wonderful opportunity to delve into further research and have an in-depth learning experience on the topic of security from expert faculty members. I attended as a recipient of the Sir Richard Dearlove Scholarship which fully funded my research and learning opportunity. The classroom environment uniquely combined lectures with one-on-one supervisions to improve your existing research skills. The program also provided a good balance of academic and social activities. Aside from the many learning opportunities, living in Cambridge is a one of a kind experience that I would highly recommend.

Priyanka, the Heller School of Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University



CSi Conference: National Security Policy in a Changing World

CSi’s two-day annual conference explores current themes relating to, Intelligence and National Security Policy in a Changing World. The Conference, which all ISI participants attend, brings together speakers and delegates from governments, security agencies, academia and business to explore a wide range of security-related issues. Past speakers have included heads of the British Cabinet Office, the French Security Service, GCHQ and MI6, distinguished academics, ambassadors and business leaders.

For additional information, please visit our Conference Page.




Supporting Students

The ISI Programme and Conference seeks to bring the best of the Cambridge teaching and learning experience to suitably qualified students through a Programme that offers all the main ingredients of Cambridge University life while focusing on a subject of enormous contemporary relevance. Collegiate life revolves around Magdalene College in the heart of a city that dates back to the middle ages where you can enjoy its cloistered courtyards, ancient architecture and riverside views.

A team of Programme Assistants, comprised of current Cambridge students and ISI Alumni, will organise a busy and varied social programme for the duration of the Programme. In previous years, this has included historical tours of the University, punting, pub outings, afternoon tea, a daytrip to London, a performance at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, a daytrip to Bletchley, and two ‘Formals’ – candle-lit dinners in Magdalene Hall. The ISI Operations Team is once again planning a range of social outings for the 2021 Programme that can be flexibly adapted due to the changing circumstances surrounding the pandemic.




The International Security and Intelligence program was an amazing opportunity to learn about twenty-first century security issues with some of the best minds in academia and real-world practice. The lectures and classes were wonderful – in particular I loved the supervision groups, where we had the benefit of in-depth discussion and guidance from our teacher and peers. I have fond memories of writing my final paper in the beautiful library – you can’t get a more motivating atmosphere than that! The program isn’t all studying – I met and became friends with people from all over the world. Everyone came to study security and intelligence, but from a huge range of backgrounds and experiences. I learned as much from my classmates as from the professors. Towards the end of the experience I remember looking around and wondering what impressive things the people in my cohort would be doing in 5 years time. I’m grateful for this opportunity I had to spend time with such a fascinating and inspiring group.

Joanna, Boston University






ISI Faculty and Alumni Publications

Incoming students frequently enquire about publication opportunities that stem from work completed during the Programme. Supervisors encourage students to pursue publication opportunities. With this in mind, we highly recommend that you discuss with your supervisor about the pathway to publication upon arrival in Cambridge. A selection of ISI Faculty and Alumni Publications can be found below. If you are an alumni of ISI and wish to publish you article on our website please email

ISI Faculty Publications

ISI Alumni Publications


Frequently Asked Questions

Costs, Finance and Accommodation

How much does the Programme cost?

The Tuition Fee is £2,400. The Accommodation Fee is £1,676 for shared facilities or £1,865 for en-suite facilities. If you choose to opt out of College accommodation there is a non-resident fee of £250.

What is included in the Programme fees?

The Tuition Fee includes: a minimum of 45hrs tuition, access to the Cambridge University Library, a two-day Conference and Conference dinner, and academic and pastoral support.
The Accommodation, Excursions and Entertainments Fee includes: single occupancy accommodation for the duration of the Programme with dinner provided Sunday- Friday, a day trip to London and Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, two Formal Dinners at Magdalene College, and a programme of extra-curricular activities.

How do I get money in the UK?

The most convenient way to draw money or pay for goods and services in the UK with a debit or credit card. This is also the safest way to pay for things. Credit and debit cards are accepted almost everywhere in the UK. Make sure you know your PIN (Personal Identification Number) as you’re likely to be asked to enter it in most shops, and we also strongly advise you contact your bank before leaving your home country so that they do not block your card once you arrive and to discuss the most cost effective way of drawing cash and making payments in the UK. Remember, you will be charged for drawing cash in the UK by banks and card operators.

Where will I live?

You will live in single accommodation in Magdalene College’s central site in Cambridge.If you opt out of College Accommodation there is a non-resident fee of £250.00 GBP.

Do I need to bring bed linen?

No. Linens and towels will be provided and changed regularly for you.

Will I have access to the internet?

Yes. You will be given access to the internet.
The College allows reasonable internet bandwidth usage, but restrictions will be imposed where usage is unreasonably high.

Can I receive post?

Yes. The postal address is:

Your Name C/O ISI, Magdalene College, Magdalene St, Cambridge CB3 0AG.

Will my mobile phone work in the UK?

You should check with your service provider before travelling if your mobile phone can be used in the UK, but be aware that ‘roaming’ charges can be exceptionally high, especially for data use. An alternative is to buy a phone in the UK with a ‘pay as you go’ tariff. Phones can be purchased inexpensively and the tariff gives you control over how much you spend.


Will I have access to a Library?

It is recommended that you have access to a library, either physical or virtual, while you are studying on ISI.

Essential reading materials, where possible, will be disseminated to students prior to lectures and seminars.

ISI 2021 Resident Students will have access to the Cambridge University Library.

A variety of digital libraries are available if you are unable to access resources through your home university or if you are a professional applicant. Namely, JSTOR offers Alumni Access: and Wiley Online Library

Our Programme Assistants will be able to offer support if you are unable to find library access to support your studies.

How many contact hours?

There will be a minimum of 45hrs contact teaching.

Which supervision group am I in?

We will confirm your supervision group by e-mail once you have submitted your supervision proposal and paid your Programme fee.

How often do my classes meet?

You will have on average 10hrs of lectures, seminars, supervision and/or workshops per week.

How much does the conference cost?

Attendance at the conference and the conference dinner in included in the ISI Programme fee.

Do I need to buy books?

The general rule is that you do not need to buy books. Required texts will be available in the College or University libraries. However, your supervisor may set pre-course reading in which case she/he will communicate with you by e-mail before the start of the Programme.


Can I travel independently?

Yes. Many students take advantage of Cambridge’s location and good transport links to travel within the UK and to continental Europe. ISI staff will help you plan to travel independently. You will have time to travel at the week-ends, or after the end of the Programme.

Do I need a visa to travel outside the UK?

This depends on your nationality. It is your responsibility to check prior to travel with the visa and immigration department(s) of the country(ies) you are intending to travel to.

Travel Documents

Keep your passport, visa letter, travel insurance, air tickets, and the address and phone number for the ISI Programme safe, and we would also recommend that you make copies of these documents and keep them separately from the originals.

Make sure that you have all the documents required by UK immigration to enter the UK. Please visit our ‘Insurance and Visa Information’ page for more information.
If you have an official photo ID, we recommend you bring this with you to use in the UK in place of your passport, which can be kept securely at Magdalene College.

Electrical Equipment and laptops

You will have WIFI access throughout the College site and we recommend bringing a laptop or tablet with you, if you have one. Using internet communication interfaces such as FaceTime is a good, free way to keep in touch with family and friends at home. Magdalene College permits reasonable internet bandwidth usage, but restrictions will be imposed where usage is unreasonably high. All electric and electronic devices including laptops must be safe and must therefore comply with UK health and safety regulations.


Although it is summer, we recommend you also bring clothes to keep you warm and dry. One essential is a comfortable pair of shoes for sightseeing.

Although there isn’t a ‘dress code’ for Formal Dinners, the expectation is that you will be smart and these are occasions for dressing up! Traditionally, cocktail dresses, suits and ties are worn.


Who can apply?

Applications are invited from students in full time higher education and professionals.

How soon will I hear?

You will usually receive an admissions decision within two weeks of submitting a complete application.

How do I confirm my place?

To confirm your place on ISI you must pay your Programme fee in full.



The ISI program is a unique learning experience set against the backdrop of the picturesque University of Cambridge. I was honored to receive a Theresa Khuri scholarship which provided me the means that I would not have had otherwise to travel to such a historic city and further my post-graduate education. The program provides the support to conduct an in-depth study of various topics regarding international security and intelligence and the opportunity to connect with experts from across the globe. Attended by students and professionals from a wide array of backgrounds, the ISI program gives you the freedom to explore topics applicable to your interests whether your future consists of academic study or professional work.

Morgan, the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky

The Cambridge Security Initiative’s ISI Programme was truly the perfect way to invest my summer: by studying deeply fascinating and academically rigorous material – from intelligence history to the impacts of security-critical current events – all while enjoying England’s rich history and culture while calling picturesque Magdalene College my home. This an experience not to miss that has left me with memories to forever treasure!

Rae-Kelly, the United States Naval Academy

Taking part in the ISI program exposed me to new theories and phenomena that were presented by pillars in the fields of security and intelligence and afforded me the ability to include them into my own field of study. That led me to progress further in my undergraduate and graduate degrees. Also, Cambridge was a wonderful setting for this program. It was beautiful, so calm and peaceful. I definitely recommended it to anyone who is interested in this topic!

Lena, the American University Beirut

The International Security and Intelligence program at the University of Cambridge provided me a unique opportunity to delve deep into a specific topic and write a published academic paper. The people I met while at Cambridge are some of the smartest individuals I know.  The diverse academic, cultural, and professional backgrounds of the students and professors helped provide numerous well informed perspectives on situations creating a great environment for academic debates and expansion of one’s mind and global perspective.  This program opened many opportunities, both academically and professionally, for me and is my fondest academic experience which I highly recommend to anyone who wants to be academically challenged, learn new perspectives, and research deep into a specific topic.

Harrison, Mercyhurst University

ISI is a unique experience – no other program out there provides you both the ability to receive a comprehensive education on intelligence and security studies and apply that education to your passions. The programme grounded my interests in international security and policy. Without the support of the staff and my supervision group, I would not have been able to produce my first-ever academic publication.

Jobel, the University of California Berkeley

The International Security and Intelligence Program at Cambridge represents an unparalleled opportunity to delve into contemporary security risks. The program serves as a primer on intelligence collection and analysis. Yet the true value of the program is not derived from the curricula they’ve put together, but the plenary lecturers offered by the faculty. As a student seeking tangible professional experience in this field, I found the course to be invaluable in terms of the insight former intelligence officials provided with respect to how our national security is maintained. Most importantly, the opportunity to research, develop, and brief a topic of my choosing (under the guidance of a faculty member with similar interests), further reinforced my desire to pursue a career in national security.

Harrison, American University, Washington DC


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