This list can be thought of as an addendum of sorts to a similar list that was done here at TopTenz, featuring American military schools. There was a bit of thought, both from myself, and from the readers of the original list, that there is something to be said about military institutions of higher learning beyond the borders of the United States. And indeed there is.
Interestingly (though not surprisingly), not all countries operate their military academies in the same manner as the U.S. While most international military academies mirror their American counterparts in the mission of training men and women to become leaders within the armed forces, they do not all include a post-secondary styled education. After a bit of thought, I’ve included on this list some of the schools that do not offer such a program (namely the Brits and Brazilians). The reason for this is that the main focus of these lists – in my mind anyway – has always been the military training aspect. There happens to be a number of international schools that excel at producing superior military officers and deserve inclusion, in my opinion, on any list that tackles this subject. After all, the idea behind any military school is to develop leaders, and this they do exceedingly well.
Without further commentary, here are the top ten international military schools:
10. Royal Military College of Canada
For reasons that continue to allude me, America’s neighbor to the north tends escape the notice of most. A literal sleeping giant, Canada has a rich military history in its own right, though its contributions may have not drawn as much attention as other nations. Nevertheless, The Royal Military College of Canada (RMC) continues to produce officers for service in the Canadian armed forces. RMC is Canada’s only federal degree-conferring military-oriented university. With the stated mission to “educate, train and develop officer cadets for leadership careers of effective service in the Canadian Forces – the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Royal Canadian Navy, and the Canadian Army,” RMC has dutifully performed its stated function since 1876.
Located at Point Frederick, Kingston, Ontario, the school emphasizes 4 “pillars: of education: military leadership, athletics, academics, and linguistics (French and English). A fully accredited institution of higher learning, RMC offers 19 undergraduate programs (in the areas of engineering, arts and science), 34 graduate programs, and 14 doctorate programs. The school has several different education tracts available to students, depending on their particular commitment (or lack thereof) to serving in the Canadian armed forces. The Regular Officer Training Program caters to those students who will be obligated to five years of service upon completion of their education (the program is actually considered a scholarship). These students have their expenses fully paid by the Canadian government, and receive a stipend each month to cover additional expenses. Other programs within the school allow students to attend without having an obligation for military service (requiring them to pay their own expenses). Eligibility for admittance into the school requires a potential cadet to meet the set criteria for the undergraduate programs of the school, as well those conditions set for officers of the Canadian armed forces.
In regards to cadet life on campus, the RMC functions in a similar manner to American military academies. Students, referred to as cadets, form the school’s cadet wing. The cadet wing is then broken down into smaller squadron and flight formations. The cadets have a rank hierarchy that is adhered to, as well as the responsibility of administering the day-to-day activities of the wing (i.e. discipline, duty details, etc.). A strict code of military bearing and discipline is expected, and enforced. Cadets are required to participate not only in the rigorous academic offerings of the RMC, but to master the different phases of military and leadership training as well.
During their first year, cadets are subjected to intense indoctrination. Cadets are required to march everywhere they go, maintain incredibly high dress standards, and participate in rigorous physical training. In addition, cadets are not allowed to leave the campus OR receive visitors during their first year. Upon successful completion of the first academic year, cadets continue their training, though under slightly less intense pressure. Additionally, cadets will begin to assume leadership roles within the cadet wing to better prepare them for a career of leadership and service within the armed forces.
With a rich tradition that spans 135 years, the Royal Military College of Canada has provided the Canadian armed forces with the leaders that have enabled its military to serve with distinction around the globe, in times of war and national need.
9. Royal Military Academy of Belgium
Belgium is not traditionally recognized as a military juggernaut. Nevertheless, those outside of the European Union may be surprised at the central role that Belgium has in the international arena. Brussels, for example, is considered the unofficial capitol of the European Union, not to mention the location of the headquarters for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). In the midst of this, Belgium has maintained a professional military establishment, that stands ready to defend Belgium’s national interest and treaty obligations in NATO.
The Royal Military Academy is the nation’s military university. Established in 1834 and based on French “grand ecoles” (elite university) standard, its purpose is to educate the future officers who will comprise the leadership of its armed forces. Located in Brussels, the school is fully accredited and confers degrees (Bachelor and Master Degrees) under a 5 year system (3 years for the BA and the MA in the final 2 years). Admission for future students is competitive. First, potential students must successfully pass a battery of military admission tests, that are given to every prospect entering the Belgian military. Next, students will have to perform well on public examinations. In this phase, they are competing with other potential entrants to the school, with those who score the highest winning the coveted and limited spots available each school year (about 400 or so).
Once admitted, RMA begins transforming young men and women into military leaders. As with most national military academies, tuition and expenses are fully covered by the government, and students receive a small salary during their time at the school. With a focus on physical and military training in conjunction with character development, the RMA sounds and feels like what would be expected at any top-notch military educational institution. The RMA refers to its educational offerings as “integrated”. The reason for this is the concerted effort to mix a beneficial blend of academic and military training to students. The school’s academic offerings are among the best to be found in Europe. In addition to BA and MA degrees, the school has a post-graduate PhD program, as well as renowned research opportunities.
Life for students at the RMA is a bit more relaxed than what can be found in American military academies, but nonetheless military-oriented. During the first 3 years at the school, students will reside in rooms with 2 or three other students. During the fourth year, students may opt for individual rooms. Students will spend most of their time on campus, though they are allowed weekends and one night per week to leave (assuming that they are in good standing). Additionally, because every military in the world has physically demanding requirements, students are required to participate in at least 5 hours of physical/sports activity each week.
Finally, students are also required to participate in military camps twice a year during their stay at the school. These camps will focus on the needed military, and leadership, skills needed to become an effective officer in the armed forces. The first camp lasts about two weeks in January, and the second camp is about one month long in July. At least one of the camps will take place outside the borders of Belgium.
8. Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras (Brazil)
In English, the name of this fine institution translates as “Military Academy of the Black Needles”. Besides being arguably the most notable military institution in South America, the coolness of the name alone deserves a spot on our list (the name is derived from the locality of the school). Located in the city of Resende, Rio De Janeiro, Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras (AMAN) traces its roots back to 1792, making it a model for future military academies in North America, as well as the first. Through several incarnations, the school has developed into the largest military academy in Brazil, that provides education and training for cadets to become officers in the Brazilian armed forces.
Potential students who wish to attend AMAN must attend a preparatory course beginning in high school and lasts through college, or win appointment through open competition. Suffice to say that entrance into the school is difficult at best. It seems that students that are admitted to AMAN’s Cadet Corp have already obtained their post-secondary degrees. In this, once admitted to AMAN, the sole emphasis of the school is on developing cadets into fully-trained and capable officers (or warlords, according to the translation on their website).
The training is divided into three phases. The first phase lasts for two years, and can be considered the indoctrination period. During this time, cadets are introduced to the military-style regiment, that is a hallmark of military academies around the world. The second phase emphasizes leadership training, and continues to build on the physical and military training began in the first phase. The third, and final, phase of training is tailored to the specific responsibilities that young officers will need to master in order to perform in the various billets within the armed forces.
One should note that the Brazilian army has, on occasion, found the need to overthrow the elected government, in addition to confronting numerous regional hostilities. For such onerous tasks, the development of an educated and highly trained leadership is essential. In this, AMAN continues to excel.
7. National Defense Academy of Japan
Japan has a rich military tradition, that is centuries old. In this regard, The National Defense Academy of Japan (NDAJ) aims to uphold the prestige and honor of military service. It’s interesting to note, however, that many people are under the impression that Japan doesn’t have a standing military. True enough, with the conclusion of the Second World War, Japan’s Imperial military forces were disbanded. However, with the onset of the Cold War, America placed a good deal of pressure on Japan to assume some of its own defensive responsibility. This emphasis has only increased, as America has had to deal with other military commitments around the world, as well as China’s emergence as a military power in the region.
Established in 1953 and located in Yokosuka, Kanagawa, NDAJ is a post-secondary military institution of higher learning. The mission of the school is to provide training and education to students who desire to become officers in Japan’s Self-Defense Forces. The school provides post-secondary/university level course level work, but does not actually grant degrees. This is due to the fact that NDAJ is not a member of the accreditation organization (The National Institution for Academic Degrees and University Evaluation) that confers such honors. However, the courses at NDAJ are duly recognized, and students are granted degrees upon graduation through the National Institution upon request. In line with other Japanese universities, NDAJ offers a strong curriculum in science and engineering, with students able to earn degrees in these disciplines as well as social sciences.
As with entrance into any Japanese university, admission into NDAJ is competitive. This is especially true, due to the fact that all costs associated with attending the school are covered by the government. In fact, even if a student drops out of the program before completion, or refuses to enter into the military upon graduation (which, apparently, many do), the student is not required to reimburse the government for the time spent at NDAJ. Nevertheless, students are selected on a competitive basis (high school rankings, grades, test scores, extracurricular activities, etc.) relative to all those who apply. A point of interest with the NDAJ is that the school states its main emphasis is on academics, and military training is limited to fundamental levels (additional military training takes place at the officer candidate schools in the SDF).
Military training, in total, will only consume about 1,000 hours of a student’s time at the school. Students or cadets are required to participate in two hours of basic military training each week. Additionally, students will undergo further training in the form of a six-week course each academic year. So, at first glance, NDAJ may seem lax on the military orientation. Nothing is further from the truth. In fact, the NDAJ is actually strikingly similar to its American counterparts. The student body forms Cadet Corps, which in turn, is organized into smaller battalions and platoons. The Corps is a self administering body, with the cadets themselves serving in leadership billets that administer the day-to-day activities of the students. Life is regimented along the basis of military discipline – formations, marching, wearing uniforms, inspections, etc.
Still, NDAJ is uniquely Japanese. There is high desire to produce highly educated officers who are able to think logically and scientifically, as well as display personal characteristics that are valued in Japanese society (and that will allow them to be effective officers in the 3 branches of the SDF). As a result, the NDAJ is an institution of higher learning first and foremost, and is among the most effectual of schools to be found in Japan.
6. Federal Armed Forces University (Germany)
Germany is known (famously and infamously) for its military prowess. Regardless of which side of right the German military establishment has fallen, the fact remained that the German armed forces were always a capable and dangerous fighting machine. One of the reasons for this is the emphasis that the Germany military has placed on maintaining a professional corps of highly trained military leaders (for the sake of this discussion, we are talking about officers – however the German military has long recognized the importance of non-commissioned officer leadership as well).
As part of the initiative, the German government established not one, but two universities for the purpose of providing university level academic instruction to its officers (and potential officers). These two institutions, Bundeswehr University Munich, and Helmut Schmidt University (in Hamburg), are administered by the German armed forces. However, these two universities are operated completely different than most other military-run institutions of higher learning. These two institutions are almost completely devoted to traditional academic offerings, with very little in the way of military training. In fact, excepting to the intensity of the course work, the Federal Armed Forces Universities (FAFU) largely resemble other German universities.
Officers and officer candidates who attend FAFU can earn Bachelors and Masters degrees. The primary difference with FAFU, from other German universities, is that degrees can be earned about a third faster. FAFU academic years are based on a trimester, while retaining comparable weight (in terms of credit and instruction) to the courses that are offered therein. As such, a master’s degree can be earned in four years, as opposed to five at other schools.
Officers and officer candidates who attend the school are obligated to 13 years of military service (for pilots, it’s 15 years). The majority of students at FAFU are military. However, by 2003, the prestige and quality of the course work increased, and civilian students were allowed to attend the school, provided that space was available and that the costs were underwritten by a secondary source (i.e. businesses, etc.). For military students, all costs are covered by the government, and students are paid a salary.
Life for students at FAFU is much different than can be found at most military school and academies as well. In fact, students at FAFU enjoy a college atmosphere that is similar to any civilian university. Students don’t wear uniforms, are allowed to schedule their classes and other activities as they see fit, and are not required to conform to a rigid military style of discipline. Indeed, the only visible military-oriented feature of FAFU is the military/language training that is offered on Wednesday afternoons. There is, of course, an emphasis placed on physical training through club sports, which students are encouraged to participate in.
FAFU hangs its hat on the high quality of its academic offerings, especially in the area of scientific research. The schools have a particularly strong aeronautical engineering program. The essence of the school’s structure is to develop highly educated officers, with the necessary military instruction and training coming from other avenues.