The Armed Forces University Short Course Scheme is an education initiative open to serving personnel of all three Armed Services, regardless of Rank, run by the Ministry of Defence. The courses, in subjects as diverse as languages, management and strategic studies, are held at universities across the U.K and are of no more than a week in duration. They represent a valuable personal and professional development resource and an opportunity to mix with sailors, soldiers and airmen in a learning environment.
I have attended five University Short Courses since 2009. The latest considered the development and formulation of Foreign Policy and was convened at the University of Exeter under Professor Patrick Porter. The courses are intellectually demanding but incredibly stimulating. In my opinion, the University of Exeter delivers the best overall package: cutting-edge academic knowledge, superb delivery and high quality accommodation. The subject matter was challenging, covering areas as diverse as the history of the development of British foreign policy and the psychology of groupthink, but the thing that brought the course to life was the valuable experience of the students. The student body consisted of 22 Servicemen and women, 12 from the Army and 5 each from the Royal Navy and RAF. Students had wide experience in military operations, from peacekeeping in the 1990s, to post 9/11 operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and current operations in Libya, the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean. The application of their knowledge made the experience educational for all, including the academic staff.
The question which I think those of you who are not serving will probably be asking is what is the value and why is the MoD paying for this course? My reply is that as well as being an investment in the intellectual development of our military personnel, they are a useful retention tool and invaluable in educating people to deal with the range of operations from warfighting to peacekeeping, from deploying to deal with flooding, disease and natural disasters to supporting the NHS and other services during times of industrial strife. If only formal Command, Leadership and Management training was as challenging and useful, but that is another story…