Beady eyed students may have noticed a rather large army van on campus last week.  It was accompanied by several officers in uniform, handing out leaflets in their latest ‘With Heart. With Mind’ campaign meant to encourage students to join the army. They were welcomed to our campus alongside other potential employers without much of a fuss; however, that is not the case for other universities across the country.

The reason for this sudden army presence is due to the fact that one in ten posts were unfilled last year at Sandhurst, the officer training academy, and they are now in panic mode. Rightly so, as according to the Telegraph, there are now more hairdressers in the UK than people who serve for Her Majesty’s Armed Forces.

So they put their heads together and came up with a brilliant plan of making over 300 visits to universities in the next two years to boost their numbers. Alongside this they decided to create the ‘With Heart. With Mind’ campaign to appeal to the students who want to see a humanitarian side to the army, thus ignoring the obvious violence involved.

This recruitment push has not been as smooth as expected. Groups of students across the nation have protested against this, with universities such as Stirling, University of London and University of the West of Scotland (UWS) refusing to allow the army to employ on their campus at all.

“The reason for this sudden army presence is due to the fact that one in ten posts were unfilled last year at Sandhurst, the officer training academy, and they are now in panic mode”

Blane Abercrombie, president of the UWS students’ union, reasons that the army are preying on vulnerable students and that international students feel threatened by the soldiers. Whilst the University of Manchester say that their presence seems unwelcome to students new and old.

Even when universities have granted the army access to the campus, there have been reports of protests and abusive behaviour towards the army stalls at many different universities. For example, at Sheffield University a protest group named ‘Army Off Campus’ defaced a public space with graffiti such as ‘war is profit ’ in anger of the army’s presence. Military members at Glasgow University complained of harassment.

Despite this controversy the University of Nottingham allowed the officers onto campus to speak to students and welcome them into their van to participate in a range of fitness activities (the bleep test we all remember from GCSE PE) to see who’s worthy.

“By stripping students of the opportunity to talk to officers about the career opportunities available to them, universities are essentially doubting their judgement and making decisions for them”

Perhaps the reason that Nottingham allowed this presence is because they don’t consider their students as prey or vulnerable like other universities are so eager to assume.

As a final year student I think I can speak for most when I say that coming to university promotes independence, and gives you the freedom to choose whichever path you want to pursue. Whether that be the army, an accountancy firm or marine biology.

By stripping students of the opportunity to talk to officers about the career opportunities available to them, universities are essentially doubting their judgement and making decisions for them. Adults are capable of making their own decisions, thanks.

“Adults are capable of making their own decisions, thanks”

So that is why Nottingham should allow the army to have a recruitment presence on campus. It is a great opportunity for students to not only sign up to Officers Training Corps but to also raise concerns and ask questions about the armed forces.

For example, why is the Ministry of Defence now reconsidering their strict tattoo rules that previously disallowed neck and hand tattoos? How are the armed forces planning on tackling the bullying culture and lad behaviour that has been recently reported by the press? What is the real reason for the drop in recruitment in recent years?

The university trusts our judgement and is granting us the opportunity to exercise our freedom of speech and shape us as individuals. Whether we choose to put on the camouflage trousers, move along to the next stall to hear about law placements, or just steal a few free pens.

Zoe Henry

Image: The U.S. Army

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