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Higher Command and Staff Course - HCSC



HCSC is a combined, joint and inter-agency defence and security course delivered at the post graduate level.  The course represents the pinnacle of staff training delivered by UK Defence and, although the majority of students are UK military, overseas military officers and key partners from other British Government Departments also attend.  The course is delivered through a combination of lectures, syndicate room discussions, exercises and visits.  Although it is underpinned by the study of the global context and the formulation of strategy, the course is centred around a full spectrum approach to command at the Operational Level of conflict.  The course is reviewed annually to ensure it remains at the cutting edge of contemporary security education. 


The aim of HCSC is 'to prepare selected officers and officials for higher command and staff appointments'.


The Higher Level Training Objectives of HCSC enable students to: 

a.  Evaluate the Defence contribution to national strategy. 
b.  Demonstrate effective military decision-making in crisis management and operational design. 
c.  Judge the utility of force at the operational level in the joint, inter-agency and multi-national contexts. 
d.  Revitalise their professional interest. 
e.  Evaluate the enduring nature and character of high command and leadership. 
f.  Demonstrate and refine the required standards of personal and collegiate behaviour within a network of like-minded security professionals. 

Business Benefits

Not applicable.
Entry Requirements


Selection to the course is highly competitive and by invitation only.




Students represent the top percentile of their profession and are likely to reach the highest rank in their Service or parent organisation. The selection and coordination of UK Military students attending the Course is the responsibility of the Service secretaries. Nominations are expected to reach the JSCSC by 30 September for the Course starting the following January. Overseas students are loaded by International Defence Training (Army) (IDT(A)) on the policy set by MOD Security Policy and Operations (Forward Allocation Board). Partners Across Government (PAGs) are invited by JSCSC to nominate prospective students. 


  • British Army
    • OF-6
      • Brigadier
    • OF-5
      • Colonel
  • Royal Air Force
    • OF-6
      • Air Commodore
    • OF-5
      • Group Captain
  • Royal Marines
    • OF-6
      • Brigadier
    • OF-5
      • Colonel
  • Royal Navy
    • OF-6
      • Commodore
    • OF-5
      • Captain
Officers attend HCSC either at OF6 rank (Commodore, Brigadier, Air Commodore) or OF5 (Captain RN, Colonel, Group Captain). 36 students attend HCSC at OF6 (brigadier) or OF5 (colonel) or equivalent rank. Of these, 24 come from the UK Armed Forces. Six places are allocated to civilians from the wider UK security community and the remaining 6 places are offered to key international military partners.
Course Details

Course Elements

The Course consists of 5 phases:

Preparation, Induction and Leadership.  This phase includes the pre-course reading / administration as well as the first two days of the course which focus on JSCSC induction, leadership and thinking skills.  

Context and Strategy. This phase provides a high-level contextual understanding of the strategic and security environment. It looks at how military strategy is formed and its relationship with policy. It also examines how operational level objectives are derived. 

Operational Art and Campaigning. This phase builds a comprehensive understanding of campaigning and operational art. It analyses the theory and practice of the operational level, the art and science of campaign design, and the realities of joint, combined, multinational and integrated operations. 

Exercise COLLECTIVE ACTION. This is a near-real-time and near-real-world problem set within a NATO construct. It is the largest and most challenging exercise on the course, incorporating both campaign planning and execution. 

Staff Ride.  The Staff Ride is the final phase of HCSC and is designed to draw together all the course strands and emerging themes, as well as demonstrate many of the enduring elements of conflict and higher command.  The Staff Ride takes place on the battlefields of France and Belgium.

Accreditation / Assessments

Students are assessed on a continuous basis but formal outputs include:

Monograph.  Students write a 1000-1200 word monograph on a subject related to contemporary doctrine.  The aim of the monograph is to get students into an academic mind-set and to stimulate discussion of contemporary military doctrine.  

Operational Art Case Studies.  Students work in teams to present their analysis of a historical case study.  The aim is to explore the historical basis of the allocated campaign, and then to apply original thinking to analyse its relevance to the contemporary security environment.  

Staff Ride Paper.   The aim of this short research paper is to use a military historical example as a focus for the analysis of high command, planning and execution of campaigns and major operations, in a joint, combined and inter-agency context.  During the Staff Ride, students are expected to bring their analysis to life on the ground with a verbal presentation to the course.   

A final report will be drafted by the syndicate Directing Staff (who are graduates of HCSC) and signed by the Comdt JSCSC (2*). Once complete, it is sent to the appropriate Single Service Secretary, PAG HR Department or nominated chain of command for international students. All reports will be produced using the extant HCSC reporting and appraisal guidance on a MOD form 2020. 

On successful completion of the course, all students will be awarded a Level 8 Diploma from the Chartered Management Institute and UK military students awarded the JPA competence HCSC(J).

Students are required to complete an internet based internal course validation (INVAL) for every phase of the course. First and second Party Audits of the course, as described in JSP 822, will be conducted via JSCSC SO1 Trg Mgt. 

Further Course Information

The course is delivered through a series of lectures from senior military officers, civil servants, academics, diplomats and practitioners who are highly regarded within their field.  Central lectures are explored in greater depth through syndicate room discussions facilitated by academic and military staff.  Academic study is complemented by exercises and visits to locations in both the UK and overseas.


There are no attachments associated with this course.

Application Form

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Further Information

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Pre-joining Material

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Key Information

Delivered By

Joint Service, Command and Staff College


Command and Staff Training, Leadership and Management




17 weeks

Course Price

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Delivery Method


Course Contact Details

Tel: 01793 788186/80
Mil Tel: 96161 8186/80

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