Strengthening the intellectual foundation for our profession of arms.

#DEFAUS17 Idea Pitch – What about a Defence University?

September 13th, 2017 by Andrew Schaverien and Ashley Medway

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela

Image courtesy of Department of Defence

The ADF is committed to supporting the lifelong learning of its members. This is illustrated by the intent of Defence Senior Leadership to educate every member of Defence from private soldier through to general. We believe the current selection of programs and schemes is not the most efficient approach to achieve this outcome, and hence we propose the development of a Defence University. We envision this Defence University to encompass what is currently: ADFA (both undergraduate and postgraduate); distance learning schemes (including DASS); engineering studies; Staff College, theological studies and medical studies (in the long term). The proposed benefits would include efficient utilisation of funding to educate in a way that provides a capability benefit to Defence, a control over quality of education and an increase in availability of tertiary level education for the entire ADF.

The scope of this idea is significantly large and requires detailed phasing and strategy plans that are currently being developed. However, for the purpose of this blog, we will mention facets of the current system, and we will focus on highlighting the main benefits of a Defence University.

In running our own university, Defence would be able to abolish tuition fees to members, thus offering more courses to more personnel. There are significant opportunities in reallocating the funding Defence is already spending in tuition fees into a Defence University and the associated costs. Defence has the capability and expertise to monitor the quality of education being provided through auditing processes that are already in place within the Defence RTO.

In Defence, there are numerous educational schemes where Defence outsources its education to civilian universities (e.g. DASS and ADFA). In the Army alone, there are further schemes that outsource this education such as the Army Tertiary Education Program (ATEP) run in partnership with the University of New England.

The Defence University’s distance education program would be readily scalable and can focus on developing capabilities Defence requires. This can help in creating a capability improvement in required areas, and potentially foster innovation thought the application of relevant theories taught to students of all ranks. Currently, programs such as DASS provide education in areas that may not benefit Defence.

Image courtesy of Department of Defence

Another benefit would be one of increased retention for specialists with particular skills as well as members of all ranks who show a distinct academic ability. This is without the need for a ROSO. These members could be incentivised through academic research and tutoring of other Defence students in their field of study. When these members return to regular units within Defence, their increased knowledge and capability would benefit other members through mentoring and coaching. These aspects would provide an intrinsic motivation for continued service. The academic research capability could also be partnered with the Defence Science and Technology Organisation to increase the research abilities of Defence and to work with existing structures wherever possible.

An aspect of this proposal is that a significant saving can be made from Defence being able to reroll staff currently involved in administration of placements and payment of fees into Defence University administration. This is coupled through the time-saving at a command level in no longer needing to go through an approval and administrative process for their soldiers.

The ADF could benchmark best practices against other foreign militaries that have already implemented similar models and institutions such as the Norwegian Defence University College, the Indian National Defence University, and the US Marine Corps University. Whilst these are examples to follow, we believe that an Australian Defence University would focus primarily on educating every member of Defence (not just senior leaders). It would also focus on a variety of different capabilities and needs across the ADF rather than being solely focused on Military Strategy as some of these examples follow.

Effectively, in creating a Defence University we would be able to replicate all the benefits of the current systems without the added costs associated with fees. This would allow for tailoring of the education provided to suit Defence needs and capabilities. This would also be far more scalable to meet an increase in demand across all ranks and Services. The retention benefit is an area that also cannot be ignored. Whilst this proposal has not been pushed through the ADF before, examples around the world can provide a baseline structure to model from. Moving forward, we welcome further discussion and debate.

About the authors

Andrew is an Education Officer posted to HQ FORCOMD in the Directorate of Professional Military Education. His current posting and previous postings (Regional Education Detachment – NSW and Army Learning Production Centre – Wodonga) have given him experience with the administration of Long Term Schooling students, university placement procedures, Army RTO and education through technological and distance means. Prior to appointment, he completed a Bachelor of Human Movement and a postgraduate Bachelor of Teaching in Secondary Education at the University of Technology, Sydney. He is currently completing a Masters of Business through UNSW ADFA.

Ashley is an Admin Clerk who served on CFTS at HQ FORCOMD in the Directorate of Professional Military Education for 12 months prior to his current CFTS position in HQ branch. He intends to commence the OCC at RMC in January 2018. Prior to enlistment and throughout his time in the Army Reserve he has worked in finance for American Express and Telstra. He has completed a Bachelor of Business at a private institution and Masters of Commerce (majoring in Strategy and Innovation) at the University of Sydney.

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