The University of Calgary suspends exclusive military studies program

Review of Ph.D program expected to continue through 2023, program director said

The University of Calgary. LIVEWIRE CALGARY FILE PHOTO

Calgary’s Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies Ph.D. program has been suspended till further notice due to the decline in interest and admission numbers.

According to the University of Calgary, there have been no new admits to the program since 2015, and the program has been suspended since January of 2021.

“CMSS has currently suspended the Ph.D. program until further notice. No new students will be admitted into the Ph.D. thesis program at this time,” a statement from the university read.

“Suspension of the program allows for CMSS to revise and redevelop the program to fulfil the changing needs of security and strategic studies in the world today.”

According to political science professor Robert Huebert, it’s normal for programs to be reviewed every few years to make sure the programs are up to date.

“There’s always a long ongoing process in which you are reviewing. Every five years, all departments within the university have a review of their program to ensure that you are in fact maintaining the program to the level that it needs to be maintained,” said Huebert.

However, this isn’t the case for CMSS as it hadn’t had a review in quite some time, according to the director of the program, professor Erin Gibbs Van Brunschot. It was due for one, she said.

“We figured that we would suspend the program while we sorted out what was going on with the program and not let people come into the program while we’re kind of sorting out what it is that is going on with the lowered admissions,” said Gibbs Van Brunschot.

During the process, the director and faculty will try to determine where the problem is, whether it’s courses, requirements and/or dissertation requirements. This process allows for the program to not be terminated and be re-opened once again.

“We did not terminate the program. At this point, we’re feeling fairly confident that it will reopen, but it might be reshaped somehow,” said Gibbs Van Brunschot.

“We don’t suspect it’ll be exactly the same because clearly there are some difficulties or some issues that had caused the lower levels of admissions, therefore it’s likely to be reopened,” said Gibbs Van Brunschot.

The University of Calgary CMSS program is one of a kind in Canada as it’s the only program that offers a master’s and Ph.D. with a focus on military, security and strategic studies.

“I remain hopeful that the program will be brought in because I think it makes a major contribution,” said Huebert.

What is the program

The Centre for Military, Security and Strategic Studies was established in 1999. It’s one of the leading centres of excellence in military and strategic studies in North America. CMSS draws from a variety of disciplines, including anthropology, political science, history, religious studies, economics, and computer science. According to the U of C, the centre has an impact that exceeds its size with regard to defence and security issues in Canada and internationally.

“What makes our master and doctoral level programs unique is that they are explicitly interdisciplinary,” said Gibbs Van Brunschot.

“All the people that we draw into the program in terms of faculty are also working in their disciplinary programs. That is the thing that really makes the program unique is the interdisciplinary focus.”

The program has paved a successful path for some of its graduates according to Huebert.

“One Ph.D. graduate is now one of the leading UN experts on small arms trade and the efforts to deal with some of the issues that have arisen within Africa,” he said.

“Another student has written an outstanding book with a medical professional on sort of the whole idea of mind and decision making.”

Decision 2023

A decision about the program getting terminated or redeveloped is yet to be made closer to 2023.

The CMSS master’s program is still available for those interested in both a thesis and/or a course-based format.  

“A suspension really suggests hope that there are ways of fixing whatever might not be working. There’s always hope,” said Gibbs Van Brunschot

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