By Dr Gerri Matthews-Smith

THE armed forces, veterans and their families are a valued part of our society and the Scottish Government is committed to making Scotland their destination of choice for studying and creating a long-term home. In Scotland along with the current 237,000 veterans, approximately 1,800 men and women complete their military service and settle – many with their families – in our community every year.

At Edinburgh Napier University, we have always been committed to supporting the armed forces community. We were the first university in Scotland to get the Gold Covenant Award recognising our ongoing contribution. Previously, our Craiglockhart campus was a hospital for officers during the First World War, inspiring the work of Wilfred Owen and Siegfried Sassoon. The War Poets Collection is hosted at Craiglockhart.

To support the challenges faced by the armed forces today, we recently launched Scotland’s first Centre for Military Research, Education and Public Engagement consolidating previous collaborative work with the armed forces in these areas.

We contribute to several military committees and groups, co-led the development of the HE: FE network in Scotland, promote flexible education pathways, and support our own internal armed forces network attended by students and staff. Our outreach programme with schools such as Colinton Primary School aims to highlight how our young people can aspire to a university education. Our Widening Participation team’s work with the Royal Caledonian Education Trust complements this through projects promoting higher education study to children from armed forces service families

Universities today deal with more diverse groups of people, such as home and international students, and those who require specific support because of additional learning needs or disability. In February 2018 the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) partnership, supported by the Scottish Funding Council, acted on recommendations in the Veteran Skills Report (2016) to recognise military qualifications, supporting a "joined-up" approach to support and guidance. Those transitioning out of the military now have recognised educational currency and gain advanced entry to university programmes.

Researchers at Edinburgh Napier have also been pivotal in identifying Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) that can affect military personnel. We’ve helped break down the stigma of PTSD within current and ex-service personnel. Other research studies include a study on veterans in prison in partnership with the Scottish Prison Service and work with military families on transition.

Several students have studied with us while remaining in active service. Recent alumnus, Alister Jackson, was a Warrant Officer in the Air Force when he began studying with us. When he was unexpectedly sent on a short-term deployment to Kabul, we worked with him to accommodate this into his learning

Efforts such as these flexible learning arrangements demonstrate our commitment to supporting members of the military in their learning and to offering educational opportunities for those coming out of the armed forces. Our new centre will continue this important work and help support members of the armed forces and their families.

Dr Gerri Matthews-Smith is the University Military Research Lead and Centre Director at Edinburgh Napier University. She is currently leading several large research studies related to Military Transition in Scotland and the Experiences of Military Children in the Scottish Education System.