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NDC - Education NDC Web site – Education – Education


  • 07 Sep. 2021
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  • Last updated: 07 Sep. 2021 00:00

NATO's member nations have entrusted the NATO Defense College (NDC) to provide a quality education to their officers and civilian officials for 70 years now. In that time, the College has graduated nearly 9,000 Anciens in its five and half month long Senior Course offered twice each year. These course members represent not only NATO members, but course members from the Partnership for Peace, Mediterranean Dialogue and Istanbul Cooperation Initiative countries as well as global partners from beyond the Euro-Atlantic area. In all, over 60 nations are able to send course members to the College. Senior Course 139 has 83 course members from 32 nations.


In calling for the creation of the NATO Defense College, General Eisenhower, wrote in 1951:

"The venture upon which we are now embarked is so new to all of us, and the problems which it raises are on such a different scale from those which have heretofore confronted the member nations, that we are continually broadening our points of view."

Those words are as true now as they were then in that the College is providing strategic education in a constantly changing world with a complex evolving security environment.

Through the Academic Curriculum the College provides the breadth, flexibility and quality of high-level strategic education.

* Breadth: In addition to the NATO member nations, attendance on this six-month Course includes nominated individuals from the Partnership for Peace countries, the states of NATO's Mediterranean Dialogue and the Istanbul Cooperation Initiative, as well as Iraq and contact countries as directed by the Alliance.
* Flexibility: The introduction of modular short courses, in which specific aspects of the strategic environment are addressed over a period of one to two weeks, allows the nations to send personnel from different professional fields who are unable to attend educational courses lasting several months.
*Quality: The contents of the Senior Course address central aspects of strategic and politico-military thinking and cover security issues as understood in the broadest sense of the term. The acquisition of knowledge is supplemented and consolidated by the application of innovative teaching methods that promote critical analysis and reasoning.

The College's essential mission is to prepare senior officers, diplomats and civilian officials to hold positions in NATO, in NATO related posts in their capital, and in other multinational organizations. Doing so involves a process of education, not training, in strategic thinking, collaborative decision making skills, and in working in a multinational environment. Sensitivity to cultural and language differences, national positions, regional perspectives, and negotiated consensus are all a part of the process. In a unique multinational setting, we develop what we call "human interoperability" as an important part of the interoperability and standardization required to have a 32 member alliance function. The program of study includes world class lecturers on nearly every aspect of the international security environment, intense committee discussion in groups of nine or ten, both individual and group writing, and case studies and exercises in collaborative decision making.

Selected course members can pursue the dialogue with each lecturer during coffee break, lunch and an afternoon seminar. These morning lectures and their question and answer sessions are preceded and followed by time in committee discussions, examining the key issues associated with the topic. This give-and-take in small groups is the heart of NDC's programme. The faculty advisers strive to draw out each individual, raise the intellectual level of the discussions, and, ideally, bring about a personal engagement in the topic. A highlight of this part of the course is a focused exposure to international negotiation styles and mediation skills.

The Research Division

The Research Division was established first as a Branch at the NDC by direction of the North Atlantic Council in 2002 to "develop its role as a major centre of research on transatlantic security issues." A number of researchers as well as Fellows from NATO and PfP nations and Voluntary National Contributions (VNC) do research on a number of long range programs devoted to Alliance strategy and policy and the changing strategic environment. In addition, the Research Division hosts a number of International Research Seminars on a variety of topics both in Rome and elsewhere through the Alliance.

The aims of the Research Division are several:

1) to conduct policy oriented research, analysis and consulting on various security issues;
2) support NATO goals by conveying the Alliance's positions to a broader audience; and
3) contribute to NATO's educational outreach.

Its target audiences are decision makers (political and military) in NATO and in the member states, the international strategic community, and media.

Specific information on the courses offered at the College is available in the section "On Site Courses" and more information on the Research Division is located in that section.