UK defence and security in an international context: developing professionals

Academics: Professor E. Spiers and Dr R. Utley, Faculty of Arts

A body of work by the University of Leeds on UK defence and security issues has enhanced the professional development of high-level practitioners.

Long-established Leeds research on UK defence and security concerns within a broader international context focuses on the contemporary international security environment. The work highlights the challenges posed by new weapon systems, particularly chemical and biological weapons, and non-state actors (including terrorists) and the opportunities for exploiting new diplomatic and security relationships. Leeds has also advocated a deeper understanding of French defence and security concerns, promoting an appreciation of France’s move away from the policy of national independence towards current preferences for working with other countries in response to security challenges, and the consequences.

The internationally commended research led to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) contracting Leeds to deliver residential courses on international relations, attended by members of the armed forces across all ranks and services, which have taken place regularly since 1995. The courses facilitate valuable understanding of interstate relations, counter-terrorism and chemical warfare, significantly contributing to professional development.

The Leeds courses allowed ‘…a much broader and deeper understanding of the history of a region that has dominated British foreign policy’, giving ‘…an excellent strategic and academic context to my work at operational and tactical levels’.

Feedback from UK Armed Forces personnel

Establishing a network of specialists

In 2011 Leeds convened a symposium based upon its French defence and security research, which attracted the French military attaché, as well as French and British participants from the UK diplomatic service, the UK military and industry. The event acted as a catalyst for the creation of an enduring network of specialists with interests in UK-French defence and international security. Leeds extended the reach and significance of this network by hosting a roundtable of participants from think tanks and defence contractors with the French defence attaché.

Leeds shared its research expertise on French defence with the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and NATO, leading to insights being incorporated into a policy paper that informed dialogue between IISS and NATO’s Parliamentary Assembly.

Advising future leaders

Leeds participated in the 2012 Royal College of Defence Studies’ Decision Game, testing members on their strategic analysis and decision-making. The researchers provided insight into the French defence debate and assisted participants in analysing vulnerability to chemical and biological attack. The activity enabled Leeds to enhance the professional development of senior military officers and diplomats and share expertise with high-level practitioners and diplomats.

Funders: SCS Limited and Ministry of Defence