Spotlight: ISS and North-West University develop new security courses

A top South African university is using ISS expertise to set standards and working methods for Africa’s security practitioners.

A specialist multidisciplinary counter-terrorism course developed by the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) to train police and military officers is the foundation for one of North-West University’s (NWU) flagship qualifications – a one-year distance learning post-graduate diploma in geopolitics with a focus on counter-terrorism and transnational organised crime.

‘Security agencies in countries traditionally had their own approach to counter-terrorism, with different definitions and legal interpretations,’ said Prof Barend Prinsloo, NWU Programme Leader in International and National Security and a former United Nations political affairs and security coordination officer.

‘But violent extremism and terror are cross-border challenges. A consistent curriculum and training programme at a reputable university will enable a common understanding, unified approach and enhanced cooperation between police, military, intelligence, border and customs authorities.’ 

The new diploma will be located within the School of Government Studies in NWU’s humanities faculty. It will launch during 2025 as the first qualification of its kind worldwide.

‘This is a major advance for counter-terrorism skills development in Africa,’ said Willem Els, Senior Training Coordinator in the ISS’ ENACT organised crime programme. ‘The adoption of ISS training expertise by a top university means Africa can now start to sustainably develop counter-terrorism skills and capacity, and help thousands of people to build careers as counter-terrorism specialists.’

The post-graduate diploma aims to attract students from foreign affairs, military, police and intelligence agencies across Africa. Future online courses may extend its reach, enabling remote learning from anywhere in the world.

The new diploma launches in 2025 as the first qualification of its kind in the world

‘The ISS counter-terrorism training manual is what is required to develop a new generation of counter-terrorism professionals. It was a helpful resource to serve as a foundation for the post-graduate diploma programme,’ said Prof Kedibone Phago, Director of the NWU School of Government Studies.

Also in the pipeline are up to four short learning programmes for working security professionals, with topics such as the South African justice system, cybercrime investigations, corruption in the civil service and money laundering.

North-West University is multilingual and South Africa’s second-largest university, with women making up two-thirds of its 68 000 students. It was ranked 10th in Africa in 2023 by Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings. The Center for World University Rankings placed North-West in the top 4.5% of universities in their 2022/2023 Global 2000 list.

‘Working with government and reputable civil society partners helps us fulfil our vision of delivering high-quality qualifications that meet real-world challenges,’ Phago said. ‘These are important new qualifications and innovative new approaches to security threats developed in partnership with the ISS as a leading pan-African NGO.’

Before joining the ISS, Els was commander of the Pretoria Explosives Unit in the South African Police Service (SAPS). He was responsible for various bomb disposal training courses for the SAPS’ Explosives Unit, K9 unit, VIP unit and Special Task Force.

The ISS counter-terrorism training was first developed for the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation and Eastern Africa Police Chiefs Cooperation Organisation.

For more information, contact:

Willem Els, ISS: [email protected]

Development partners
The ISS is grateful for support from the members of the ISS Partnership Forum: the Hanns Seidel Foundation, the European Union, the Open Society Foundations and the governments of Denmark, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden.
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