Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Demilitarizing the Education of Australian Military Officers

Major General Michael Smith, (Australian Army, Retired) has proposed that Australian military officers should attend civilian universities (ABC Radio National Sunday Profile, 28 July 2013 12:30PM). Currently officer cadets attend the Australian Defence Force Academy (ADFA), with an academic program provided by the University of New South Wales. General Smith suggests changing this would produce a better culture towards women in the ADF (although civilian universities have a higher rate of sexual assault than ADFA).

General Smith's proposal implies that the current ADFA campus in Canberra would be closed down and the students sent to civilian campuses across Australia. The cadets would then receive separate military training. I suggest a simpler option would be to re-designate the ADFA campus a civilian university.

Currently the ADFA campus is run by the Defence Organization, with UNSW staff providing academic education programs. The students are in uniform and live in dormitories on campus under military discipline.

If it was felt necessary to have officer cadets attend a civilian campus, this could be done at ADFA relatively simply. The signs could be changed from "ADFA" to "UNSW", the students not required to wear uniforms and the accommodation run under university college rules. Military students could be allowed to live off campus and civilian students invited to stay on-campus.

More responsibility for running the campus would be taken on by the civilian Rector (the UNSW Canberra equivalent of Vice-Chancellor) and the Commandant ADFA would concentrate on the separate military training program the cadets would receive.

ADFA already has post-graduate civilian students. It is likely that UNSW would take the opportunity to recruit more civilian undergraduate and postgraduate students.

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