3 Continuing education of Armed Forces
Description of the education
53. The Minister told us that the MoD supports elective
learning. The MoD
also told us that it supports education throughout personnel's
careers which had benefits for the personal development of such
individuals and for retention.
The MoD's description of the various education support schemes
available to serving personnel and those leaving the Services
is set out in Table 7 below.
Table 7: Description of the education support
|The Standard Learning Credit (SLC) scheme, which supplies financial support, throughout the Service person's career, for multiple, small scale learning activities, is designed to enhance educational or vocational achievement. Under the SLC scheme personnel may claim 80 per cent of course fees, up to a maximum of £175 per financial year, paid to civilian bodies for certain personal development courses, examinations and support.
|Complementing the SLC scheme, there is the Enhanced Learning Credit scheme (ELC) providing help to personnel who qualify with a single payment, in each of a maximum of three separate financial years, offering to pay 80 per cent of the fees up to a maximum £1k or £2k (depending on qualifying scheme membership of either 4 or 8 years' service) to help pay towards the cost of higher-level learning. The ELC scheme helps to motivate full time members of the Armed Forces to pursue their higher level personal development, both during their Service and for up to ten years afterwards, subject to the qualifying criteria being met.
|An Individual Resettlement Training Costs (IRTC) grant is payable to Service Leavers (SL) with more than 6 years service to help towards the cost of resettlement training. A full refund for fees paid (up to a maximum of £534) may be claimed. IRTC may be claimed at any time in the last two years of service but normally in the last 9 months.
|The Further Education/Higher Education Support Scheme provides eligible SL who have four years full-time service with fully subsidised tuition fees for a first full Level 3 or a first HE qualification, including foundation or full undergraduate degrees. SL must be registered for the ELC scheme. MOD pays a contribution per claim if any unused ELC credits remain, with BIS or the devolved administrations contributing the balance of the course fees.
Source: Ministry of Defence 
54. Standard Learning Credits (SLCs) provides very
limited financial support of up to £175 a year for a maximum
of 80 per cent of any course fees. The MoD explained to us that
it was often used to extend a military course. Colonel Johnstone
[...] What we do in the Services, which is a
little bit differentI think it is an advantageis
that we try to get as much educational benefit from the training
that they are doing in service anyway, through the accreditation
scheme and so on. We then encourage the individual to do the additional
learning that might be needed. We actively say to people, "You
have done 80 per cent of this qualification through the military
course you have just completed. If you now want to get the full
qualification, it will take this many credits at university, and
here is the military funding system that will give you a refund
55. Take up of SLCs has fallen since 2009-10, see
Table 8 below. Annual expenditure on SLCs has also fallen
from £2.8 million in 2009-10 to £1.6 million in 2010-11.
In 2011-12, expenditure was some £1.9 million.
Table 8: Take-up of Standard Learning Credits
||No of Claims Authorised
Source: Ministry of Defence
56. We asked the MoD why the take-up of SLAs had
fallen, Admiral Williams said:
We have also noticed that and we are looking
into why that might be. The initial feedbackit is not fully
worked through; this is initial responses from the training commandsis
that it might be as a result of the higher profile of the apprenticeship
scheme and the fact that all of those coming in feel that they
are on a course or getting qualifications and moving along a line
that they can recognise. That might be why we are not feeling
the need to focus on and take the opportunities of the SLCs. That
is possible. Operational commitments might be part of it. That
drop would largely seem to be in the junior ranks. [...]
Colonel Johnstone added that completions of apprenticeships
had increased from around 7,000 in 2007-08 to 12,000 in 2010-11.
57. In response to this Report, the MoD should
inform us of the results of its investigation into the fall in
the take-up of Standard Learning Credits. If appropriate, the
MoD should encourage greater take-up amongst Armed Forces personnel.
58. Enhanced Learning Credits (ELCs) were developed
to motivate full time members of the Armed Forces to pursue higher
level personal development during their service and for up to
ten years afterwards. Take-up of ELCs has significantly increased
recently, see Table 9 below. Correspondingly, expenditure on ELCs
has risen from £5.7 million in 2007-08 to £21.5 million
Table 9: Take-up of Enhanced Learning Credits
||No of Registrations
||No of Claims Authorised
||1.112||13,881 registrations, 6,503 claims
||2.258||16,048 registrations, 7,854claims
||2.324||18,262 registrations, 7,476 claims
||3.006||13,550 registrations, 10,389 claims
||4.467||19,254 registrations, 14,468 claims
Source: Ministry of Defence
59. We asked the MoD how information about ELCs is
communicated to personnel. Admiral Williams replied:
They are widely advertised internally; in every
unit that you visit, you should see posters. Equally, it is on
the intranet, and that is where we would find increasing numbers,
of our new people, particularly, looking for the information.
Those who are interested in pushing ahead for an enhanced learning
credit or getting accreditation for higher level education would
look there, and every unit has people with education responsibilities
if they are not big enough to have an education specialist officer.
Part of the roles and responsibilities of that individual is to
proselytise such things.
Funding and the time available
60. We asked the MoD if learning credits and apprenticeships
might be squeezed in the next round of spending reductions. Admiral
That is a really difficult question. Every last
bit of the armed forces is subject to scrutiny of where we are
at the moment in terms of funding, and we in the education area
will not be immune to any of that. That is counterpoised by the
very clear advantage we get by the investment we make in our people.
That is recognised very well and very clearly. It is recognised
today and it is recognised in our new employment model, which
we are developing at the moment. One aspect of that is to ensure
that we get parts of that that have some of these credits embedded
within them. In terms of policy and where we are in our thinking,
the educational side is absolutely front and centre, and crucial,
but I could not sit here today and say that it is in any way protected.
61. The time available for education is often limited
because of work pressures and operational deployments and this
is likely to have been exacerbated by recent Armed Forces redundancies.
We asked the Minister if personnel had enough time to participate
in education. He replied:
I believe we encourage them to do so wherever
it is practical. Again, I make the point that ultimately we are
training personnel to be able to conduct operations in defence
of the realm. But we do encourage people to study where they can
and we do our best to try to advance all of our people as far
as practical bounds allow. I am sure that people will always want
to have more time in some contexts, but we have a fairly good
crack at it.
Colonel Johnstone also said that personnel could
study when deployed:
It is a matter of mixing all that together in
a blend, so that the individual, regardless of whether they are
in a training establishment, a workplace or are deployed in Afghanistan
or anywhere else, is able to access that support for literacy
and numeracy, including electronic learning and so on.
The MoD also provided some information on the numbers
of personnel taking qualifications on board Royal Navy ships and
in deployed locations. In 2012-13, some 3,000 Army and Navy personnel
had taken civilian examinations in Afghanistan or on board ship.
62. The MoD should not reduce funding for education
as a result of the 2013 Spending Review. The MoD should promote
education in the Armed Forces and encourage the chain of command
to find time for personnel to engage in such activities.
Higher education as part of career
development for senior leaders
63. We asked the MoD whether higher education was
seen as a core part of career development in Future Force 2020.
Admiral Williams replied:
A lot of thought is going into higher education
at the momentwhere it sits and whether you need formally
to stratify a rise within an officers career development programme,
starting with a bachelor degree and moving through a masters.
It is certainly true to say today that the Services offer foundation
degrees for the basic officer training. There are other foundation
degrees offered for warrant officer aircrew, [...]. So there is
a foundation degree with a route to full honours, funded and paid
for, for those who wish to take it.
He said that there is a debate within the Armed
Forces about the possibility of an allgraduate entry for
officers. He further said:
[...] we are a little bit nervous about going
quite that far, for worry that you would miss one or two people
who are just not academically focused but who are very good potential
officers. So there is a lot of debate at the moment. If you look
at the through-career development of officersif you look
at the advanced command and staff course, for example, where a
masters degree is on offer, or the Royal College of Defence studies,
where similarly one is able to take such a qualificationthe
opportunities are certainly there, and each Service has its own
64. The Minister told us that education was important
in producing senior officers and, in particular, in the development
of strategic thinking. He added:
There have been studies undertaken into the intellectual
support needed in the Armed Forces, and into how higher levels
of training and education help us to develop people and our competitive
edge, both operationally and in other areas. Clearly the ability
to train our senior leaders in the right way and to the right
standard is as important to the Armed Forces as to any other organisation.
But of course there is the additional element of military and
strategic training on top of that.
65. The MoD has undertaken limited research comparing
qualification levels to the success of senior officers. Admiral
I am not sure that the research or work that
we have done stands up in the way of academic rigour, but certainly
all three Services have looked quite carefully at their top cohort
and looked at where they have come from. [...] and we have had
very many very successful senior officersactually, very
clever, academically gifted senior officerswho did not
necessarily have a degree when they entered the Service. There
is an issue there for me in a broader educational sense, because
I would give you a personal view that I think that some people
are ready at the age of 18 to take a degree, but some people are
not and they get traction later on. The delight for me in the
Services is that there is an opportunity. It is not easy, because
you are doing a proper job at the same time, and to give yourself
the time and to drive yourself hard enough to ensure that you
give your academic studies enough focus is a difficult thing to
do, but the opportunities are there.
66. Admiral Williams also said that the MoD evaluated
education in the Armed Forces regularly:
There has been a more or less constant evaluation
and re-evaluation of the educational input that we give our individuals,
our officers and our senior officers. The Advanced Command and
Staff Course, which takes place in the middle of an officer's
career, is structured so that an MA is possibleand indeed
recommendedon it. We are looking at the characteristics
of that course and whether it delivers sufficiently the level
of strategic studies required. It does contain a considerable
proportion of strategic studies, and we continue to look at it.
Only a month ago, the Defence Training Board commissioned me to
do another review of our Higher Command and Staff Course, the
relationship between that and the Royal College of Defence Studies,
and that which we give our individuals on both those counts. [...]
So this is a much reviewed, focused area of our capability. I
do not think we would ever sit back and be complacent and say
that we have got it right. [...] 
67. We asked whether the review of the Higher Command
and Staff Course had been commissioned by the Defence Training
Board with a view to cutting expenditure. Admiral Williams replied:
It is capability-focused. It is about using the
current resources as well and as consistently as we can between
something like the Higher Command and Staff Course, which is an
operationally focused course, and the Royal College of Defence
Studies, which is much more of a strategic piece. It is designed
to make sure we get the optimal output out of all those things.
68. The MoD provided us with the terms of reference
for the Review and told us that the Defence Training Board would
consider the resulting report in October 2013.
69. We are persuaded that, as well as recruiting
graduates as officers, the provision of higher education for those
in command in the Armed Forces is essential and should not be
reduced by the MoD as a cost-cutting exercise. The MoD should
provide us with the results of the Review of the Higher Command
and Staff Course when completed and the response of the Defence
Training Board to its recommendations. We will return to the subject
of higher education in the Armed Forces, in particular, the need
to educate personnel in strategic decision-making, as part of
our work on Future Force 2020.
70. Given the increased role for reservists in Future
Force 2020, we asked the MoD what it was doing to get work in
the Reserve Forces accredited for civilian degree courses as happens
in Australia. Admiral Williams replied:
We are looking at every bit of accreditation
as part of the whole FR20 [Future Reserve 2020] piece. There is
a massive amount of work going on there, as you might imagine,
and some of it will follow on the initial work on how we are going
to make the thing work. But the aim is, absolutely, to align regular
and reserve; the aim is to ensure that in every bit of training
that we do in the Ministry of Defence, we look for accreditation
where we can. That aligns not only with FR20, but in this new
employment model, which sort of had its genesis in the regulars
The MoD provided us with the terms of reference for
the above accreditation project. The results of the project are
due to be considered by the Future Reserves 2020 Programme Board
in October 2013.
71. With the increased role envisaged for reservists
in Future Force 2020, it is essential that the Armed Forces make
Reserve Service as attractive as possible for the reservists and
their employers. We see the education accreditation project as
an important component in encouraging people to join the Reserves.
The MoD should provide us with the results of this project and
its implementation plans.
69 Q 46 Back
Ev 14 Back
Ev 24-25 Back
Q 58 Back
Ev 22 Back
Ev 22, table 7 Back
Q 26 Back
Q 27 Back
Ev 22 Back
Ev 22-23, table 8 Back
Q 25 Back
Q 28 Back
Q 57 Back
Q 17 Back
Ev 28, table 5 Back
Q 29 Back
Q 61 Back
Q 34 Back
Q 61 Back
Q 62 Back
Ev 30 Back
Q 33 Back
Ev 29 Back