In the spring and summer of 2011 the Chair of the Military and Strategic Studies Programme undertook the Programme Self-Study. The Final Report was completed and submitted to the Dean of Arts in September 2011. Overall, the Self-Study revealed that students were satisfied with the existing Programme and believed that the courses offered in each of the disciplines which compose the Programme were relevant to their military careers and provided them with the necessary skills to be successful in their future academic and professional careers. Although both faculty and students expressed overall satisfaction with the Programme, some did express concerns regarding the lack of electives and certain inflexibility in programming the core elements of the degree. Others were concerned with the Programme's lack of human and fiscal resources and suggestions were made to rectify some of issues.
During their visit site the ERC met with various College administrators, faculty, and students enrolled in the Programme. The ERC Final Report concluded that the MSS Programme is "a model of a strong interdisciplinary Programme … grounded in … outstanding departments" and provided students with a "clear and well-structured … collection of relevant courses."
The Self Study and the ERC identified a number of strengths of the RMC MSS Programme. Overall, the two studies found that the Programme was a strong and uniquely multidisciplinary Programme that delivered a rigorous high quality curriculum that provided students with the critical thinking and analytic skills necessary to succeed in their careers as Canadian Armed Forces officers and beyond. Both concluded that the teaching and research carried on by faculty members involved in the Programme reflected the current state of research and scholarship in the discipline and that the inclusion of courses in language, science and military psychology represented significant innovation relative to other multidisciplinary programs offered across Canada. In addition, extra-curricular opportunities such as battlefield tours, debates, conferences and guest speakers also afforded students impressive opportunities to connect their classroom learning with more experiential forms of pedagogy. The ERC also singled out the work of past and present Chairs whose dedication to providing students with a high quality education but also with opportunities and mentoring often went above and beyond the call of duty.
As part of the Self-Study and External Review process a number of recommendations for strengthening the Programme were put forward. In general these recommendations fell into four (4) broad categories including:
Range of Curriculum Choice
Both students and the external examiners noted the high number of mandatory courses required for the degree and the lack of course options available to students. Some recommendations involved making full year courses into single term courses, while others suggested allowing students a wider choice to mandatory courses to better tailor the degree to their area of interest.
Steps have already been taken by the Chair to increase the number of and widen the variety of courses available as MSS electives. In addition, students can now interchange similar courses in Politics and History to satisfy particular degree requirements.
Strengthening the Methodological and Theoretical Components of the Curriculum
This would serve to better ensure students had the requisite understanding of the fundamentals of the discipline.
This recommendation has been addressed both at the course and Programme level. First, courses in International Relations offered in the Politics Department have become more consistent in their coverage of the various theoretical approaches to the discipline. Second, a series of methodological seminars are now required for all students enrolled in the MSS Honours Programme to ensure that they have the requisite understanding of the various approaches to research in the field before commencing their projects.
Changes to the Governance Structure of the Programme
In part to reduce the burden on the Chair, and to ensure better coordination between the Departments comprising the Programme. On the first issue, additional course relief plus greater administrative assistance from an Associate Chair or Student Committee was implemented. On the second issue, the Reports recommended a permanent steering committee comprised of the heads of the various Departments as well as the Dean of Art and the Programme Chair. This has been implemented by inclusion of a MSS Chair, as a Head equivalent, in regular Heads Meetings. In addition, the ERC recommended that the Chair of MSS be a permanent member of future hiring committees in the Departments of Political Science and History. Implementation will be by way of ensuring that a faculty member engaged with the MSS Programme will be included for in hiring committees.
These recommendations have already been successfully implemented with additional course relief for the Chair and the formation of a Student Committee. In place of a formal steering committee, the MSS Programme Chair has joined the weekly meetings of the Department Heads and Dean of Arts which informally allow greater coordination and consultation between the key stakeholders in the Programme. In addition, the Chairs of Political Science and History have agreed to include the MSS Chair on future hiring committees in areas that may potentially affect the MSS Programme.
Finally, the Reports recommended more stable funding for Programme events such as guest speakers, trips and student exchange activities to ensure the continued viability of some of the more popular and innovative elements of the MSS experience. While issues of funding of extra-curricular events remains a concern at the RMC, the establishment of an Arts Laboratory by the Dean has provided greater coordination and more consistent support for events organized by the MSS Programme.
The Military and Strategic Studies Programme attracts many students because of its relevance to their chosen profession. As an interdisciplinary Programme it requires careful oversight. The Internal and External reports on the MSS find the Programme is "strong" and "well-structured" with the support of "outstanding departments". The ERC did report issues related to the resources allocated for proper oversight and remedial measures have been taken. The Programme has also responded to observed weaknesses in course choices and the extent of methodology courses. The IQAP process has had a positive impact on the Programme and has alerted the Arts Faculty and Departments to the shared responsibility of the MSS Programme.