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Brunel rolls the dice on first ever wargaming degree

Brunel’s Wargaming and Resilience Planning MA is likely the first wargaming degree course

• Trailblazing course teaches emergency planning

• First of its kind masters qualification

Starting in September, students can be the first to study the world’s first degree course in the art of wargaming.

Armies, emergency services, governments and big business all use modern wargaming techniques, which originated in the late 1600s.

Then in the 1980s, commercial table-top strategy games started to emerge, where players hone their tactical and strategic skills by acting out battles with mini figures. These drew a cult-like following and many later morphed into highly sophisticated computer games again attracting an avid fanbase. At the same time the professional practice became more rigorous and expanded beyond defence.

Now in the post-pandemic ‘perma-crisis’ era of widening wars, climate emergency and political polarisation, wargaming is again getting serious. Military Simulation specialists Ruddy Nice opened an unclassified Wargaming centre near Salisbury in April and the MoD this year set up Southwick Park wargaming hub in Hampshire. Meanwhile several universities now run wargaming modules and workshops.

But Brunel University London’s Wargaming and Resilience Planning MA is likely the first wargaming degree course.

“As far as I know this is the first anywhere, not just the UK or Europe,” said course leader security studies lecturer Dr Iain Farquharson. “We’re looking forward to it, it’s very much a passion project. We know it’s desired by the industry and it’s very relevant to the time we’re living in.”

The qualification combines military strategy and gaming elements with add-on options for international relations security and development. Such options include the Arab-Israeli conflict, which looks at its origins under British rule, the major Arab-Israeli wars, peace agreements, and it ends with recent events. Migration law and international development are also optional modules.

Organisers will work with defence and government departments such as the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory and the Ministry of Defence plus private firms offering wargaming and simulation.

Beyond defence, the course which is one year full-time or two years part-time will teach the skills needed to work in resilience planning for big organisations such as the NHS, British Transport Police, NGOs and overseas aid organisations.

And since it is such a specialist skill, course leaders are thinking outside the box with recruitment. “We're aware there might be many people with extensive experience but don't have degree qualifications,” said Dr Farquharson. “We’d like to talk to them. We want people with the experience and the passion more than anything else.”