Home Agenda Agenda: How Universities Can Support Military Members and Their Families

Agenda: How Universities Can Support Military Members and Their Families


THE Armed Forces, Veterans and their families are an important part of our society and the Scottish Government is committed to making Scotland their destination of choice for studying and creating a long-term home. In Scotland, along with the current 237,000 veterans, approximately 1,800 men and women complete their military service and settle, mostly with their families, in our community each year.

At the University of Edinburgh Napier, we have always been committed to supporting the military community. We were the first university in Scotland to receive the Gold Covenant Award recognizing our continued contribution. Previously, our Craiglockhart campus was an officer’s hospital during World War I, inspiring the work of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. The War Poets Collection is housed at Craiglockhart.

To support the challenges facing the armed forces today, we recently launched Scotland’s first center for research, education and public engagement, building on previous collaborative work with the armed forces in these areas.

We contribute to several military committees and groups, co-lead the development of the HE: FE network in Scotland, promote flexible educational pathways and support our own internal network of armed forces attended by students and staff. Our outreach program with schools such as Colinton Elementary School aims to highlight how our young people can aspire to a college education. Our Broader Engagement team’s work with the Royal Caledonian Education Trust complements this through projects promoting higher education among children of military families.

Today, universities deal with more diverse groups of people, such as national and international students, and those who need specific support due to additional learning needs or a disability. In February 2018, the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Partnership, supported by the Scottish Funding Council, responded to the recommendations of the Veterans Skills Report (2016) to recognize military qualifications, supporting a ‘joint »Support and guidance. Those leaving the military now have recognized training and access advanced university programs.

Edinburgh Napier researchers have also been instrumental in identifying complex post-traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) that can affect military personnel. We have helped break down the stigma of PTSD among current staff and veterans. Other research studies include a study of veterans in prison in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service and working with military families in transition.

Several students have studied with us while remaining on active duty. A former student, Alister Jackson, was a warrant officer in the Air Force when he began studying with us. When he was unexpectedly sent on a short-term deployment to Kabul, we worked with him to incorporate that into his learning.

Efforts such as these flexible learning arrangements demonstrate our commitment to supporting military personnel in their learning and to providing educational opportunities to those leaving the military. Our new center will continue this important work and help support members of the armed forces and their families.

Dr Gerri Matthews-Smith is Head of Academic Military Research and Director of the Center at Napier University in Edinburgh. She is currently leading several large research studies related to the military transition in Scotland and the experiences of military children in the Scottish education system.


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