MSc Covert Investigation and Specialist Intelligence (Distance Learning) (PgDip, PgCert)

Start date(s)
January 2022
September 2022
Study mode
Part-time (2 years)

Tuition fees 21/22

PgCert: £3,495

PgDip: £5,995

MSc: £7,995

Application fee: £400

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About this course

Covert Investigations and Specialist Intelligence offers an unrivalled and balanced insight into the current debates, opportunities and controversies around the subject.

  • Embark on this innovative programme specifically designed for people either seeking to develop a career within intelligence or professionals with a remit involving covert investigations and intelligence matters    
  • Study 100% by distance learning using Informa's cutting-edge teaching and learning system
  • Learn from experts and former practitioners with experience in covert and investigative operations

With intelligence and covert tactics as vital components in any effective security framework, this course examines key issues associated with intelligence and covert activity at local, national and global operational levels.

The material is delivered by widely published academics and by experienced practitioners within covert, intelligence and legal arena.


policingIt provides students with a solid grasp of the development of the use of covert techniques and specialist intelligence globally and its application within social and political contexts. These issues are considered from law enforcement, intelligence agency and military engagement contexts, and in doing so, course draws from diverse academic, strategic and operational perspectives.

Fees and funding

There are many ways to fund postgraduate study for home and international students


The fees quoted at the top of this page cover registration, tuition, supervision, assessment and examinations as well as:

  • Library membership with access to printed, multimedia and digital resources
  • Access to programme-appropriate software
  • Library and student IT support
  • Free on-campus wifi via eduroam

Additional costs

Although not all of the following are compulsory/relevant, you should keep in mind the costs of:

  • accommodation and living expenditure
  • books (should you wish to have your own copies)
  • printing, photocopying and stationery
  • PC/laptop (should you prefer to purchase your own for independent study and online learning activities)
  • mobile phone/tablet (to access online services)
  • field trips (travel and activity costs)
  • placements (travel expenses and living costs)
  • student visas (international students only)

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  • study abroad opportunities (travel costs, accommodation, visas and immunisations)
  • academic conferences (travel costs)
  • professional-body membership
  • graduation (gown hire etc)


There are many ways to fund postgraduate study for home and international students. From loans to International Scholarships and subject-specific funding, you’ll find all of the information you need on our specialist postgraduate funding pages.

Please be aware that the UK’s departure from the EU may affect your tuition fees. Learn more about your fee status and which tuition fees are relevant to you.


Further your career prospects

LJMU has an excellent employability record with 96% (HESA 2018) of our postgraduates in work or further study six months after graduation. Our applied learning techniques and strong industry connections ensure our students are fully prepared for the workplace on graduation and understand how to apply their knowledge in a real world context.

This programme prepares you for further study, employment or new roles in your current profession.

Law enforcement, Intelligence and other related public sector fields currently suffer a skills gap in relation to covert investigation and specialist intelligence. This programme aims to fill that gap. It teaches the advanced skills of research, conceptualisation, analysis, argument, and presentation – all highly valued in many areas of employment.

Students with an interest in pursuing an academic path will be encouraged to progress to PhD level. This MSc plays an important development role in this process.

On completion of your MSc, you may consider a career in the law enforcement, intelligence agencies, private security or in areas connected to investigation, security or criminal justice e.g. the armed services, prison service, social work or criminal justice-related roles within the Civil Service. If you are already in employment, the MSc will prepare you to specialise in your area of interest.

The student experience

Discover life as a postgraduate student at LJMU.


Discover the building blocks of your programme

Your programme is made up of a number of core modules which are part of the course framework. Some programmes also have optional modules that can be selected to enhance your learning in certain areas and many feature a dissertation, extended report or research project to demonstrate your advanced learning.

Human Intelligence

Human intelligence, or HUMINT as it is more commonly referred to, is, perhaps, the first covert collection discipline, an activity deployed by States and organisations for thousands of years. The module examines the HUMINT collection discipline by introducing the range of both overt and covert techniques. It will critically evaluate its important contribution to identifying and mitigating threats while also considering the associated ethical challenges that come with HUMINT use. You will critically examine the use of HUMINT in different social and operational contexts including the use of juveniles as informants, the role of informants who participate in crime and the use of legal representatives as informants. The module, recognising that HUMINT is not simply the domain of the State, also examines its increasing use in the private sector and non-government organisations. While focusing on the covert aspect on HUMINT, the module also equip you with an in-depth knowledge of community HUMINT and its application and integration into covert operational settings.

Forensic Elicitation of Intelligence

The era of the ‘War on Terror’ highlighted the central role played by intelligence agencies, law enforcement and the military in securing the necessary critical intelligence to identify and mitigate threat. It was also an era where some of the accompanying policies and practices adopted to elicit intelligence were subject to close public and governmental scrutiny. Increasing pressure to secure high quality and timely intelligence led to accusations of questionable ethical elicitation techniques. This module aims to introduce the array of academic research associated with the elicitation of intelligence. It explores those techniques that appear to be both effective and ethical in securing information to better understand and then mitigate threat and harm. The module will examine various interview models and techniques, which when correctly applied against witnesses, victims, refugees, prisoners or other detainees can effectively and ethically contribute to satisfying intelligence reporting requirements and progress investigations.

Covert Techniques: Legislation and Operational Capability

This module examines the array of covert techniques routinely deployed against criminals, aggressive State and non-state actors. It critically evaluates the governing legislation and procedures relating to the deployment of covert techniques and will critically assess the debate on what is the appropriate balance between privacy and security. Youwill assess covert methods and technical equipment currently available to organisations and the relevant law, procedures and guidance governing their use in both reactive and proactive investigations. The module will critically evaluate the benefits and risks of managing the product from covert activities together with the authorisation processes, governance, and accountability in place. It will also cover an often-overlooked area of study; the role of tasking and coordination models and senior leaders in covert operations.

Research Method

The generation of high-quality academic research is critical for the development of effective covert and intelligence practice. This module provides an introduction to quantitative and qualitative research methods, and the types of skills necessary for the planning, data gathering and writing a research proposal. It includes research design, methods of data collection and approaches to managing and analysing data. The module provides a basic understanding of the underlying principles of quantitative and qualitative research and the links between the two. It will help you to choose  the most appropriate research method to address a particular research question. The module will be geared towards you completing the dissertation or an independent and original research paper, which may shape and influence future practice.

Covert investigation and Specialist Intelligence Dissertation

The vocational nature of the postgraduate programme is further enhanced by the dissertation, which is particularly useful for working professionals who want to focus their efforts on a topic that has particular relevance either to their own work environment or one in which they may want to further develop their career. The dissertation enables you to investigate in-depth a topic within the field of Covert Investigation and Specialist Intelligence studies. You can select your own research area (subject to Programme Leader authorisation). The dissertation will include independent and original empirical research into policy and practice. It is expected that pertinent knowledge and skill gained in other course modules will be reflected in the dissertation. The dissertation allows you to undertake an independent and sustained piece of research into a substantive topic of your own choosing. It must include appropriate extended piece of empirical or theoretical research on a topic in the Covert Investigation and Specialist Intelligence studies field.

Optional modules

Case Studies in Intelligence Success and Failure

A disastrous military failure leading to a costly retreat, a successful surprise attack by terrorists with catastrophic consequences to a civilian population, or the death of a vulnerable person even after multiple indications of threat had been previously received by law enforcement. All these tragic circumstances can lead to accusations of State intelligence failure. However, what is meant by intelligence failure? Can it be predicted? Can it be prevented? In contrast, what makes for an intelligence success and can this success be replicated? This module examines the concept of intelligence failure using real-world case studies, exploring the theoretical approaches to explain failure, and then, apply these against cases drawn from the military, intelligence agencies, law enforcement and multi-agencies working. This module offers a long-term view of the history of intelligence and then drills down to specific case studies, issues, and areas whose lessons are vital to understanding modern intelligence concepts and practice. By doing so, it enhances your critical thinking regarding the challenges that arise through gathering, evaluating, securing and using intelligence. 

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Operational Ethics

Intelligence professionals are employees of Governments and/or Business who operate in an area that some would consider unethical. Ethics play out for all ranks and grades in organisations that utilise covert methodology or collect intelligence. The norms that appears settled in the 1980s are now under scrutiny, with intelligence ethics now acting as a point of reference in public inquiries, both within the UK and further afield. Scandals involving intelligence agencies and law enforcement have led to growing demands for transparency and increased accountability. However, deception, secrecy and morally troubling compromises are often operationally necessary to mitigate risk and save lives. This module will focus on the ethical challenges arising from covert and specialist intelligence based operational practice and critically evaluate the dilemmas that may arise when someone is asked to perform a task that potentially interferes with the rights of others. Using case studies, this module examines how future operatives can best foster an ethical climate within their organisations and within the senior leadership team.

Intelligence Analysis

The module considers what intelligence and analysis means in an operational context. It explores its overall role and its application to security related issues of law enforcement, governmental agencies, international organisations, and the private sector. It examines issues pertaining to the use of proactive intelligence and analysis and does so by using ‘real-world’ case-studies which enables you to delve deeper into the nuanced variables that can both challenge analysts and also, enhance modern analytical practice.

Investigative Interviewing

Effective interviewing is central to the success of both overt and covert investigation and accordingly, the highest standards of practice need to be upheld. It can identify both the guilt and innocence of people. It can support the prosecution case and, if effective, can increase public confidence. In this context, interviewees can include victims, witnesses, prisoners and suspects. Agencies, both private and State need to develop and maintain interview skills of their employees. Effective interviewing can assist with directing the interview. It can ensure they are undertaken ethically and are consistent with the rule of law. This module critically explores the intersection of psychology and policing and it does so by examining current practices, techniques and applications of police interviewing. You will be exposed to comparative international techniques in interviewing, interpretation of verbal and physical behaviour and the causes of denial, deception and defensiveness.


Securing a successful prosecution while still being able to protect covert methodology and sensitive sources is critical for the long-term success of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. This module will critically examine the principles of disclosure, taking the student through a structured, methodical process, discussing common law principles that apply, the statutory law as set out in the Criminal Procedure and Investigations Act 1996 and the supporting codes of practice. It will also explore the role and responsibilities of investigators, disclosure officers and the Senior Investigating Officer, the disclosure test contained within the legislation and the requirements placed on the prosecution and the defence. You will critically evaluate the common law rules of disclosure in the early stages of the investigation and prosecution case. There will be a focus on managing disclosure in complex cases, the scheduling and dealing with sensitive material, the application of Public Interest Immunity (PII) and considerations around third party material. You will also critically evaluate the legal and ethical considerations for investigators in managing criminal investigations and understanding the wider strategic issues faced by the Investigator including the role of the Prosecuting Authority.

Intelligence Sharing and Cooperation

The failure to share information with others can undermine the effectiveness of operations and investigations, sometimes fatally. Even though the benefits of intelligence sharing have been well evidenced, this module will consider why information sharing still appears to be a recurring problem across agencies. This module explores how intelligence sharing mechanisms have developed over time, locally, nationally and internationally. It will critically assess the legislative provision underpinning the management of information and explore the barriers and enablers to effective sharing and cooperation within and across organisations.

Intelligence Oversight Mechanisms

The 9/11 attacks, the terrorist attacks in London, the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby, and the War in Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction have all led to inquiries into how the intelligence and law enforcement agencies collected, handled and used intelligence. This module examines the role of Intelligence oversight and its application at local, regional and national operating levels. This module will explore what effective oversight may look like and asks why is oversight so important to intelligence agencies and law enforcement. It addresses other critical questions including; What happens if oversight is ineffective? What is the capacity and expertise required to deliver effective and meaningful oversight? What undermines effective oversight? The module critically examines and compares both UK and USA oversight mechanisms. It will show that legislative or parliamentary scrutiny, if undertaken effectively, can ensure intelligence agencies not only attract the resources required but can deploys these efficiently and ethically. The module, recognising that scrutiny it not just the domain of the State, also examines the important role played by the media in oversight.


An insight into teaching on your course

Teaching methods

The course is taught in a distance learning format, with no attendance required on campus. All aspects of the programme are managed over the internet using a dedicated virtual learning environment platform which manages your learning schedule. The course will include access to online study materials plus tutorial and discussion forums for networking and interacting with tutors and peers. Forum discussions allow you to co-operate across time zones and share knowledge, experience or discuss the course content with other students and course tutors.

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Person sat using laptop


How learning is monitored on your programme

To cater for the wide-ranging content of our courses and the varied learning preferences of our students, we offer a range of assessment methods on each programme.

Course tutors

I welcome your interest in this ground-breaking course and I look forward to welcoming you as a student to study the fascinating and ever-changing field of intelligence and covert investigation.

Entry requirements

You will need:

  • a minimum second-class honours degree or above in an area such as criminology, law, policing, security, social or political science


  • an equivalent overseas equivalent qualification


  • a graduate level professional qualification of comparable standard and/or at least three years suitable experience (such as policing, corporate intelligence, security or military) working within a dedicated intelligence and / or covert investigative related role.

Additional information

  • IELTS 6.5 or a TOEFEL score of 575
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Please note: All international qualifications are subject to a qualification equivalency check via NARIC.

View country specific entry requirements

Contact LJMU's International Admissions Team for guidance on visa information. Further information is also available from our international web pages.

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Application and selection

When applications open for 2020 entry you will be able to apply directly to Informa Connect for this programme. The link will be available by clicking the "Apply Now" button on the top right hand side of this page once applications are open.

As part of your application you will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • Copies of any academic/ professional certificates
  • A copy of your CV
  • A personal statement explaining your reasons for choosing the course and your interest in the subject
  • A copy of the back page of your passport showing the photo and passport number

These should be uploaded to the application form or can be emailed direct to if you have problems uploading. These must be submitted before you can be accepted.

Once you are ready, please complete the online application form where you will also be asked to submit credit card details for payment of the application fee as detailed above. Students who do not provide credit card details will be invoiced and your application will not be submitted for acceptance until the application fee has been paid. The application fee is refundable should your application not be accepted on academic grounds.

Cut-off date

Applicants wishing to commence studies in September 2020 or January 2021 will soon be able to apply via the Informa Connect application system.

The University reserves the right to withdraw or make alterations to a course and facilities if necessary; this may be because such changes are deemed to be beneficial to students, are minor in nature and unlikely to impact negatively upon students or become necessary due to circumstances beyond the control of the University. Where this does happen, the University operates a policy of consultation, advice and support to all enrolled students affected by the proposed change to their course or module.

Further information on the terms and conditions of any offer made, our admissions policy and the complaints and appeals process.

Important info about this course