MA Air Power: History, Theory and Practice (RAF)

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This programme is only open to RAF personnel who have completed, or are completing, the Senior Officers’ Study Period (SOSP). Students from other backgrounds should apply to our standard Air Power: History, Theory and Practice MA.

The Air Power: History, Theory and Practice MA aims to explore a wide variety of air power issues and debates. This version of the course, designed especially for SOSP students, is delivered on a flexible part-time basis over eighteen months, through Saturday Schools, allowing you to fit your studies around work, family and other commitments.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Taught

Study Options: Part time

Duration: 18 months part-time

Start date: April


Over the last century, air power has proved to be one of the most complex and fascinating forms of military capability. It is full of contradictions and controversies. Its reach and versatility make it the most desirable of components; its lack of permanency equally offers real flexibility, but also potential drawbacks. Some issues, such as the strategic bombing of Germany continue to promote ‘savage’ debate. And much has been made of the rhetoric, and of the consequences, of warfare in the third dimension. This exciting MA programme provides a unique opportunity to study the theory, history and practice of air power within the context of War Studies.

You will study four core modules (full descriptions below):

  •  Air Power Technology, Tactics and Training
  •  The Legal, Ethical and Political Dimension of Air Power
  •  The Experience of Air Warfare
  •  Research Skills: Dissertation Preparation

Each of the taught modules is assessed by completion of a 4,000-word essay and you will also complete a 15,000-word dissertation.

By the end of the programme, you will have been exposed to many of the debates and issues surrounding air power. You will be able to couch your ideas in relation to the academic literature and structure your responses. You will have learned the necessary research skills to be able work at Masters level and will be able to consider taking your research further at higher levels.


You will study four core modules:

Year one

  • Air Power Technology, Tactics and Training
    This module will introduce students to the inter-relationship between scientific and technological developments and their impact on training and tactics.

Year two

  • The Legal, Ethical and Political Dimension of Air Power
    This module will analyse the development of legal and ethical thinking on the development and utilisation of air power. The module will critically examine the interface between air power and the political arena, how this has developed and what current challenges imply for the future. Possible areas for debate in this field include: how thinking developed on the legality and moralityof the strategic bombing campaign in the Second World War; rules of engagement in small wars (air policing on the NW Frontier); and current issues on collateral damage.
  • The Experience of Air Warfare
    This module will introduce you to the various theories of strategy before going on to examine the air power strategists. The module will look at the various theories as well as their relevance to practitioners.
  • Research Skills: Dissertation Preparation
    The culmination of your degree programme is the writing of a 15,000-word dissertation, a piece of supervised, but essentially independent, research on a subject of your own choosing. In order for you to undertake this exercise with confidence, the Summer Term module will be devoted to Dissertation Preparation.

Fees and funding

We charge an annual tuition fee. The programme is delivered over two academic years:

  •  In the first academic year, you will complete one module over a single semester (April – June).
  •  In the second academic year, you will complete the remaining three modules and your dissertation over a full academic year (September – September).

For entry in April 2015, the fee for year one is £660 and the fee for year two is £3,105.

Entry requirements

Students who apply to this programme should be RAF personnel who have, or are completing, the Senior Officers’ Study Period.

How to apply

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

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Learning and teaching

This programme is delivered through our Centre for War Studies, so you’ll be taught by academics who are experts in their field.

The course has been designed around enquiry-based learning, and consists of a flexible blend of tutor presentations, student-led discussion, student presentations and assessed written work. Each module will be taught through three intensive Saturday Schools to allow you to fit study around your existing commitments.

You will also become part of, and contribute to, the vibrant international community of the College of Arts and Law Graduate School, which offers dedicated research resources and a supportive working environment. Our team of academic and operational staff are on hand to offer support and advice to all postgraduate students within the College.

Support with academic writing

As a postgraduate student in the College of Arts and Law, you have access to the Academic Writing Advisory Service (AWAS) which aims to help your transition from undergraduate to taught Masters level, or back into academia after time away. The service offers guidance on writing assignments and dissertations for your MA/MSc programme with individual support from an academic writing advisor via tutorials, email and the provision of online materials.

International students can access support through the English for International Students Unit (EISU).

Related research


The University of Birmingham has been ranked 8th in the UK and 60th in the world for post-qualification employability in the latest global survey of universities commissioned by the International Herald Tribune.

Your degree will provide excellent preparation for employment and this will be further enhanced by the employability skills training offered through the College of Arts and Law Graduate School.

The course will enable its graduates to follow a wide range of careers in which an analytical approach would be beneficial. These include the armed forces, industry, media and further research. Historically, over 94% of our History students have been in employment or further study within six months of graduating.