Australian National University: A global leader in National Security Policy Studies

“My experience here is moulding me to take my business seriously. I want a concise and precise understanding of national security. I want to take away perspective, opinion and confidence – these are the pivotal factors that change you.” – Rohit Alok, student in the National Security College at ANU

As a term developed in the United States at the end of World War II, the concept of national security has since evolved into a challenge of global concern.

The idea initially fixated on the force of military might, but in the wake of the social turmoil and political unrest which has shaped the modern world, there remains a sense of “underlying pessimism, a sense of danger and disorder” that has circulated since 1918.

In these times of change and uncertainty, the concept has been broadened and amplified. Now, national security encompasses every threat that could infringe the non-military or economic security of any nation, breaking or undermining the values cherished by law-abiding societies.

“Security threats involve not only conventional foes such as other nation-states but also non-state actors such as violent non-state actors [e.g. terrorists], narcotic cartels, multinational corporations and non-governmental organisations; some authorities include natural disasters and events causing severe environmental damage in this category,” Science Daily explains. Throw in the danger of health pandemics and cyber attacks, and national security can be understood to deal with the full gamut of security challenges to contemporary societies.

National security policy graduates stand at the frontline of such problems, with the National Security College (NSC) at the Australian National University (ANU) producing highly capable leaders who shape security policy in their respective countries. Here, students form part of a passionate, supportive community of like-minded peers, inspired by the drive of industry practitioners and a diverse network of successful alumni.

As a student at the NSC, you’ll engage with respected scholars who break new ground in the field, absorb the expertise and knowledge from the discipline’s wider community, and cement your position in government, politics, business or NGOs in Australia and the world.

“What I’ve learned at NSC from the assessments and teaching materials is how to make a very well-structured plan for the short and long terms, and how to apply theory and concepts to particular issues,” says Floranesia Lantang, a student of the NSC’s Master of National Security Policy. “After I go back to Indonesia I can put the theories, concepts and skills I learned here into practice.”

Tailoring the programme to instil a unique skillset, Floranesia plans to apply learned expertise to boost development and border security in her home province of Papua. “There are many problems in the border area (with Papua New Guinea) and the regulations made by the Indonesian Government are overlapping,” she explains.

And rising to the challenge of the NSC’s national security curriculum means Floranesia will reap the rewards. Already, this talented student has been granted special permission to develop a specific policy for the Indonesian Government.

“Each agency and ministry has its own policies, and they do not sufficiently consider societal security, local traditions and local values among the indigenous people. So I proposed integrated border management, like the European Union uses, so the two countries would apply one, single border agency and one-stop border posts.”

Specialist knowledge and insight gained has lifted the cap on Floranesia’s potential, and spurred her application for a role with some of the industry’s biggest names.

“I’m applying for a job in the public service as an analyst of human rights issues, but also I think I will apply to non-government organisations like World Vision or UNICEF in Papua because it’s my mission to contribute to the education and development of society.”

Floranesia Lantang

Floranesia is not alone in her goal, with every student of the NSC’s course on National Security Policymaking uncovering the practical aspects of its development and implementation. ANU’s carefully structured course grants students a detailed look at Australia’s national security policymaking system; its structures, processes, norms and everything in between.

You will also take a comparative glance at the disparities in global policy construction, analysing systems across the US, UK, India, Indonesia, France and Japan. You will investigate contemporary issues concerning the interplay of national interests, values, politics and bureaucracy, learning from some of the most influential figures the business of security has known.

Nowhere else in the world will you find a qualification that so perfectly blends multidisciplinary security studies with applied policymaking. NSC staff teach what they research, bringing their students into both enduring and emerging subject matter that tackles the core challenges of national security in regardless of geographic location. As one NSC alumna has emphasised: “Don’t study security in Sydney – go down to Canberra and get taught by the professionals…”

Part of what makes the NSC unique is the broad, interdisciplinary stance it takes toward matters of national security. While similar institutions focus on international relations, foreign policy and defence, ANU and the NSC elevate student discovery, specialising in areas that cross both states and regions and place the centre at the cutting-edge of security research. Here, students delve into fascinating fields such as counterterrorism, cybersecurity, the geopolitics of an emerging Indo-Pacific and foreign interference in national affairs – including the use of cyberspace as a devastating weapon.

This is an institution that consistently draws on in-house expertise, also feeding off global partnerships within government, industry and academia to address plausible futures and complex policy issues. Above all else, this immerses students in innovative teaching methods, empowering them through workshop simulations, hypothetical scenarios and topical case studies.

With an expanding horizon of risk and uncertainty, there has never been a better time to pursue your national security education here, at ANU.

“The academic environment here is multi-disciplinary, highly interactive and responsive to the security problems of a world in change,” Professor Rory Medcalf, Head of the School, concludes: “Our staff are crafting a new hybrid field of knowledge, at the intersection of domestic and international security – national security for the challenges of the 21st century.”

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