On-site Courses

  • 26 Sep. 2016
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  • Last updated: 26 Sep. 2016 00:00

The Senior Course

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The Senior Course is the College's core business. It examines the following modules and topics within them. The Modular Short Courses (MSC) and Integrated Partner Orientation Course (IPOC) overlap with portions of the Senior Course as noted as do portions of the NATO Regional Cooperation Course (NRCC).

Senior Course's Study Periods


Study Period A: The Global Security Environment *

Study Period B: International Organizations *

Study Period B - Field Study: European Perspectives

Study Period C: NATO: Present and Future *

Study Period C - Field Study: The Transatlantic Link

Study Period D: Technology Related Trends

Study Period E: Global Security Challenges *

Study Period F: Regional Issues *

Study Period F - Field Study: Regional Approaches and PfP

Study Period G: Crisis Management – The NMDX


(* Indicates MSC, IPOC short courses)

During the course, the entire Senior Course departs on two field studies to NATO capitals and headquarters to hear directly from senior officials. For the latter, NATO Headquarters, Allied Command Operations and Allied Command Transformation provide the big picture of the Alliance and its plans and operations. But the real revelations begin in the capitals when the course members see and hear how the nations make policy. Following these trips, the College requires analytic papers from each committee with their perception of the state of transatlantic relations and national contributions to the Alliance.

There are two capstone exercises during the final weeks prior to graduation. The first is a three-day political simulation at the North Atlantic Council level to deal with several consensus-stressing threats to Alliance security that demand action. The second is the presentation of each committee's Study Project -- an in-depth look at a topic affecting Alliance security approved by the faculty early in the course. Both a written analytic paper and oral presentation are required.

Learning obviously does not end at graduation. The classroom should be more a state of mind than a place. Education should become a career-long endeavour, in which the individual who wants to learn has readily available to him or her all that is needed to progress to new levels of knowledge and understanding. Through the use of a website, portal protected interest groups, a variety of Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) opportunities as well as networks of Anciens of the various College courses the College seeks to preserve the contacts and provide for a virtual learning experience to support continuing education outside the College.

Additional Courses and Outreach

NDC offers a variety of short courses for specific audiences. The best known is the General and Flag Officers and Ambassadors Course, offered for one week in the spring and again in the fall, with an additional week in Brussels. Begun in 2002, this has become a very popular and worthwhile vehicle for introducing senior leaders to NATO and the challenges of the evolving security environment. Together with highly regarded expert lecturers, some 45 to 50 senior officers and officials have the chance to discuss some of the major issues confronting the Alliance.

The College is continuing its Integrated Partner Orientation Course (IPOC) that began in 1992. For two weeks, some 25 to 30 officers and civilians from Partnership for Peace (PfP), Mediterranean Dialogue (MD) and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative (ICI) countries join the Senior Course and are integrated into the committees. In addition to two stimulating weeks taken together with the course members, they return home with a better understanding of how NATO works at the both the professional and personal level.

The NATO Regional Cooperation Course (NRCC) was directed by the North Atlantic Council at the Riga Summit in 2006 and after two years of preparation inaugurated at the College in 2009 to educate NATO officers and officials about the Maghreb, Mashreq and the Gulf and officers and officials from the Maghreb, Mashreq and the Gulf about NATO. As the Alliance’s major educational outreach to MD and ICI countries, this 10 week program is offered twice each year, once in the spring and again in the fall, to some 20 to 40 course members in each course. It makes use of lecturers in the Senior Course (40% of the time), has its own separate facilities, its own lecturers, most from the ME region, and has dedicated Faculty Advisors with Ph,D.s and experience studying and working within the Maghreb, Mashreq and the Gulf.

At the request of the North Atlantic Council, the NATO Defense College organized the first edition of the Senior Executive Regional Course (SERC-1) between 17 and 21 September 2012. The event was open to a select group of high-ranking officials, decision-makers, leaders and influential thinkers from NATO countries, different countries in the Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, together with other invited participants such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Oman and Afghanistan. The aim was to promote mutual understanding on broad regional issues, share an evaluation of strategic matters involving the regions concerned and NATO, and to contribute to an enhanced knowledge of NATO and its role as a potential actor at the service of common security.

NDC also sponsors a “NATO Week” for the Ukrainian National Defense Academy. The College arranges for a series of lecturers, and takes several Faculty Advisors and members of the College leadership to Kyiv for a week each February. Since 2000, this annual event has opened a window for Ukraine's future leaders on NATO thinking and NATO educational methods. Several hundred Ukrainian officers participate in the program each year.

Finally, and closer to home, NDC serves as the chair for the annual Conference of Commandants (CoC). Senior educators from all over the Alliance, the Partnership for Peace and increasingly the Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative participants meet for three days to exchange ideas on the challenges of educating senior officers and officials in an ever more complex world of security challenges. The site for the CoC changes annually but is held in Rome every third year.

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