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The UCL SECReT programme integrates research, taught elements and transferable professional skills throughout a four-year multidisciplinary programme. Our focus is on creating a truly unique student experience and integrating a community of researchers into a cohesive centre of excellence. 


We expect that students will undertake:

  • A core programme of research-focused taught modules
  • Executive training to develop transferable professional skills
  • A programme of security events and activities
  • Up to 25% of their time (3-12 months) at a partner organisation on internship
  • The PhD thesis


YEAR 1: Exploring multidisciplinary approaches

The first year forms a year of six taught courses plus a research project during which students are given a comprehensive background in security related topics. With this training students emerge to pursue their PhD research. In Year 1 students will put a multidisciplinary mindset into practice during a project spread over two terms, often in pairs or in small groups, in a relevant problem domain of their choice, but covering at least two of the research domains: Science&Technology, People, Process or Public Policy. Students will gain greater expertise in their subjects of interest whilst writing up their project in a 15,000 word collaborative report/dissertation.


YEAR 2: Preparing for research

Students will agree a supervisor, a research subject and prepare their transfer to PhD. They will spend a significant amount of time producing a literature review. In the process they will seek to develop new approaches to research and build a case for their own project. The second year gives students an opportunity to take two modules including one on ethics.


YEAR 3: Research intensive period including external internship

Students are expected to submit their transfer report at the beginning of Year 3, following usual UCL procedures. We will encourage students to pursue their research at an external location for a period of 3-12 months. This enriching experience may take place at a research centre abroad, a public sector department or in industry. See SECReT Partners for our growing list of partner organisations. During this internship students will remain in close touch with their UCL supervisors, and involved in DTC activities. The third year gives students an opportunity to take one more module to develop new skills and knowledge for their project.


YEAR 4: Final year of the programme

Students will concentrate on completing their project, and unearthing opportunities for the exploitation of their research and their future career. UCL SECReT through its various committees, will facilitate attendance at public engagement events, career training, career fairs and job interviews. During this period students will be encouraged to increase their effort in publishing their research in peer reviewed journals, and publicising their work at academic conferences. Students will take one final taught module, usually in their specialist area.

Pioneering research


Our pioneering research is organised across the domains of security science and aims to create a secure society by protecting our citizens, businesses and critical infrastructures. It is applied to mitigate threats from criminals and terrorists to our physical, communications, energy, health, border, transport, environment and financial infrastructures. The research is also aligned to UCL’s Grand Challenges: sustainable cities, global health, well-being and inter-cultural interactions.

Our research is underpinned by a methodology that joins science and engineering expertise (S&T) with expertise from wider disciplines including the social sciences. We see four research 'domains' which can interact. These are:

  • Science and technology innovation: to create the next generation of security technologies
  • People factors: understanding and incorporating human factors (via behavioural science, decision-making techniques, etc.) into the development of security solutions
  • Process factors: enhancing security processes by increasing our understanding of the operational processes of activities, organisations or infrastructures under threat
  • Policy: contributing to the development of government policy through research findings

Our research domains and potential supervisors can be found by clicking here.

Broadening the domain, increasing ambition


Throughout their training SECReT students will take a range of 10 taught modules (see below and also the tab called 'Options')  selected to give all SECReT students a common foundation in the security science area, ensure students are equipped to undertake first class research, develop student sensitivity to the environment within which their future work will be implemented, develop specialist knowledge in their discipline and develop knowledge in a related discipline of their choice.

  • YEAR 1

Foundations in Security and Crime Science (compulsory and assessed) sets out the foundational concepts, theories and approaches that underpin the masters programmes offered in the Department of Security and Crime Science. In this way the module provides an overarching framework for the modules that follow. It outlines the distinctive nature of the crime science approach to understanding, preventing, detecting and investigating crime and security problems. It presents the key theories that explain the temporal and spatial patterning of crime and terrorism events, and introduces students to associated strategies for disrupting these patterns. The need for a multidisciplinary approach – especially the integration of the social and physical sciences - to address crime and security problems is emphasised, with the contributions of the forensic sciences and security technology highlighted. 

Quantitative methods (compulsory and assessed) provides students with an understanding of how to visualize and analyze quantitative data. Relevant examples are used to show how the principles and methods can be used to test hypotheses concerned with crime. The aims of the course are two-fold. First, to develop students into intelligent consumers of research by explaining why researchers conduct studies in the way they do and what methods are appropriate for different kinds of data. And, second, during supported workshops, to provide students with the opportunity to apply their learning by analyzing real or simulated data. The course will provide students with practical skills that will help them to complete their dissertations.

Global security challenges (compulsory and assessed) Any search for innovative solutions must begin with an understanding of the problem. The contemporary security agenda has broadened, coming to encompass "traditional" questions, such as terrorism, crime, proliferation, and military intervention, and other global issues, such as migration, health, and the environment, all of which have a fundamental security dimension. This module introduces students to the many domains of application of security science through an overview of key security challenges and concepts.

Doing research in security science (compulsory and assessed) The aim of the modules is to prepare students to plan scientific research in security science and to introduce graduate students to the logic of scientific research in the areas of security science.


Risk and Contingency Planning (compulsory and assessed) presents key elements of security risk theory including quantitative risk assessment. It introduces students to systems-thinking approach, and equips them with an understanding of techniques and tools to identify and evaluate security risks. This module will also provide research students with a basic knowledge of key scientific principles behind security systems and technologies.

Optional module: Chosen from student’s specialist area (assessed)

  • YEAR 2

Ethics, security and research (compulsory and assessed) covers two major areas: Ethics associated with the proper conduct of research and the ethical issues around topics such as public engagement, human rights, environmental sustainability and policy impact. The module will pay particular attention to the Universal Ethical Code which encompasses seven principle means of building or maintaining trust between scientists and society: Act with skill and care, keep skills up to date; Prevent corrupt practice and declare conflicts of interest; Respect and acknowledge the work of other scientists; Ensure that research is justified and lawful; Minimise impacts on people, animals and the environment; Discuss issues science raises for society and Do not mislead; present evidence honestly. In line with the EPSRC’s current concerns the module will encourage consideration of ways in which scientists can meaningfully engage with the concerns of the public in the conduct and application of research.

Optional module: Chosen from student’s specialist area (assessed)

  • YEAR 3

Optional module: Chosen from student’s specialist area or a related area

  • YEAR 4

Optional module: Chosen from student’s specialist area or a related area

Students will also be expected, at some point in the four years, to take Principles of information security which introduces students to the many domains of information security science through an overview of key security challenges and techniques. Students will have an understanding of fundamentals of cryptography, computer security, network security, digital rights management, copyright and intellectual property law, and security policy and procedure standards.

Professional skills

Throughout their four-year programmes SECReT students will undertake training that builds personal, professional and transferable skills. The elements of this professional skills training will include:

Personal development and Roberts points

UCL’s Graduate School is one of the most innovative in the UK. The school develops new training programmes and student activities to support the student experience. SECReT students have a choice of hundreds of UCL training programmes including: Library/Electronic and Archive Resources, Statistics Packages and Techniques, Presenting / Publishing your Research and Teaching Skills. 

Click here to see a list of courses: http://courses.grad.ucl.ac.uk/list-training.pht

The training provided by the Graduate School is often called Roberts Points Training where ½ day of training = 1 Roberts point.

SECReT students must gain 25 Roberts per annum ie. the equivalent of 12.5 days of training. Most Phd students at UCL are only expected to obtain 20 Roberts points... but we expect SECReT students to be a cut above!




Business, leadership and industry engagement skills

SECReT students make strong links with external organisations through seminars, internships and an annual Industry Evening.

Our students also learn how to manage their own research budgets, and are given responsibility to make decisions affecting their research.

UCL’s partnership with the top-rated London Business School allows SECReT students to take MBA elective modules at LBS focused on management and leadership skills. These modules include ‘Leading teams and organisations’ and ‘Management of technological innovation’, ‘Finance and Management’ and ‘Strategy in Innovative Industries’.

Alternatively, students may take their two optional modules from UCL’s MSc in Technology Entrepreneurship. Students who have successfully passed the electives at LBS are eligible to apply for a £4,000 scholarship to work three months on the possible exploitation of their PhD research.

"I thought the SECReT students were very impressive talking to the audience as they did with such confidence after just three months . . . I think that is a creditable baseline for others to emulate"
Neil Viner, EPSRC
(commenting after the first UCL SECReT Industry Evening)

Students will learn methods of public engagement, including presentation skills training.  Our students are supported by UCL's press deptartment with media skills training session focused on TV and radio interview techniques.

SECReT students learn professional speaking skills from a company that has trained Microsoft professionals amongst others. Click here to see student feedback about this unique training day.

SECReT students will organise an annual public symposium at UCL to showcase advances in security science, and participate in the annual International Crime Science Conference hosted at the British Library, London.

Organising and networking skills

SECReT students will contribute to organising the  Security Science seminar series, involving industry, public sector practitioners and policy-makers in security research at UCL.

The aims of this activity are (i) create networking skills (ii) broaden student knowledge beyond their own area of expertise (iii) impart organisational skills such as budgeting, logistics, marketing and team-working (iv) stimulate creativity and encourage research in societally relevant areas.

Dissemination training

Our students are given excellent guidance in publishing their research in relevant academic and non-academic publications. They are also required to present at conferences and workshops.

Through its dedicated business development manager and various committees, UCL SECReT will ensure students take advantage of all opportunities offered to disseminate and exploit their research.

Specific opportunities will be presented through  UCL Advances, a new centre within UCL tasked with the responsibility of broadening the skills of academics and young researchers.

SECReT will attend a selection of workshops hosted by UCL Advances such as: 'How to become a better networker' and 'What business wants'.

The following are a sample of the exciting range of optional modules open to  SECReT students:


  • Crime and terrorism

Perspectives on organised crime and terrorism; Understanding crime; People and security; Prevention and disruption; Situational crime prevention theory

  • Intelligence

Intelligence gathering and analysis; Crime mapping and spatial analysis for crime science

  • Sensors

Signal processing; Image processing; Antennas and propagation; Radar; Radiation detectors, Detectors for imaging; Nuclear medicine; Dosimetry; Nanoelectronic devices

  • ICT

Research in information security; Cryptography; Network security; Communications and networks; Systems infrastructure; Introduction to IP systems; Mobile and wireless communications; Software for networks and services; Quantum computation and communication; Digital rights management

  • Law and policy

Terrorism and the law; Criminal procedure: Doctrine and theory; International criminal law; Globalisation and security; Peace and security; Terrorism; Governing divided societies; International justice and human rights; Theory and actors of the policy process

  • Management

Managing technology-intensive organisations; Managing technology projects and portfolios; Strategy for ICT ventures

  • Energy

Energy systems and sustainability; Advanced safety and loss prevention; Energy security

  • Decision making

Applied decision making; Cognitive neuroscience; Information

  • Health

Patient safety and clinical risk; Governance and clinical quality; Electronic health records and shared care; Nanotechnology and healthcare