The Centre for Defence Management and Leadership (CDML) is a specialised research and teaching unit, comprising experienced and dedicated researchers. It has developed a world class reputation in defence and security studies, and is lauded for the rigour, originality, international perspective and policy relevance of its doctoral programme.

The Centre has delivered short training and long degree-bearing courses in over 100 countries. Students are typically employed in central government, defence industry and the Armed Forces, and their doctoral studies resonate with their professional activities, including, for example, defence engagement, conflict resolution, gender studies, humanitarian and relief operations, international conflict and security law, defence budgeting and public finance. PhD candidates are required to attend an initial one-week induction programme. Thereafter, regular progress reviews are undertaken to ensure students receive continuous advice and guidance. Cranfield is well-known for providing close and supportive supervision, and students will be allocated primary and associate supervisors to offer mentorship across the entire period of doctoral registration.

Research thematics

Doctoral research programmes are offered in a broad array of defence and security leadership, law and management fields. Candidates are invited to submit research proposals that fit into any of the following broad subject areas:


Potential supervisors

Interested applicants are encouraged to consult with Centre academics regarding interest in supervising particular research projects. It is advisable that contact is made prior to formal submission of an application. Please see below for academic names, respective e-mail addresses, broad disciplinary fields and also URL links for access to their teaching, research and publication details.

Leadership and Management

International Law

Policy, Strategy and Governance

Economic and Financial Management

Research Students

Find out more about our current research students and their areas of research.

Mode of study

Students can register for a three-year full-time PhD programme, and may be based at either Cranfield Defence and Security, Shrivenham or in their home country

Part-time registration is also available. The study period extends to six years, though it is possible for students to submit their doctoral thesis for examination from the three-year point. Candidates will not be based at Shrivenham and may undertake their doctoral studies while in full-time employment at any location in the United Kingdom or overseas.

How to apply

CDML is one of seven focused Centres that form part of the Cranfield Defence and Security (CDS) Faculty. It is located on the edge of England’s beautiful Cotswold region, just an hour West of London. The application process is uncomplicated, having the following requirements:

  • Completion of an online application form
  • Submission of a research proposal, with a wordage target of between 2-2,500 words. The proposal should include:
    • A clear and concise research aim/problem/question
    • Reference to the original contribution to knowledge
    • Brief identification of the seminal literature in the chosen field
    • Explanation of the research methodology for data collection
    • Emphasis on the research programme’s policy relevance
  • Compliance with the minimum entry requirements: a 2.1 first degree and/or master’s qualification, along with at least five years relevant professional experience

For further application information, please access more details about applying for a research degree.