Educating strategic leaders
: examining the educational and social preferences of students from diverse backgrounds in joint strategic-level security and defence colleges

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This dissertation provides the first international study on the needs and preferences of demographically diverse student cohorts in joint strategic-level security and defence colleges (JSSDCs). Specifically, it addresses two key questions. Firstly, what are the educational and social preferences of diverse student cohorts at JSSDCs? Secondly, in what ways can students’ backgrounds impact upon their preferences? The rationale behind this research is that, whilst JSSDCs have traditionally placed significant emphasis on the creation of demographically diverse student cohorts, there exists a scarcity of research on the impact or implications of such diversity within the college environment.

A handful of studies and commentaries do exist that provide potentially valuable observations and hypotheses regarding the specific needs and preferences of a diverse JSSDC student cohort, as well as variations in the needs of students from different educational,linguistic, professional, regional, and political backgrounds.The reliability and inferential capacity of these observations are limited, however,by the predominant focus of such publications on Western and ‘multilateral’ college case studies and their common reliance on potentially biased observational data.

This thesis represents the first ever attempt to test the validity of these existing hypotheses. It achieves this by analysing mixed-methodological data on the educational and social preferencesof 803 former students of thirty-two JSSDCs. The results of the research broadly support the observations and hypotheses generated by existing publications and reports. At the same time, they significantly modify and expand upon a range of these existing observations and conclusions. The research also highlights areas in which the preferences of diverse JSSDC student cohorts align notably with those of diverse student cohorts in the wider adult learning and Higher Education contexts.

These findings create a substantive,evidence-based foundation for JSSDC faculty seeking to better adapt their policies and provisions to account for variations in the needs and preferences of students from diverse contexts. They also provide a valuable contribution to scholarly debates on the impact of demographic diversity in professional military education as well as the Higher Education sector more broadly.
Date of Award1 Sept 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorVictoria Syme-Taylor (Supervisor), Andrew Stewart (Supervisor) & Sally Rohan (Supervisor)

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