MA Air Power: History, Theory and Practice

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The programme aims to explore a wide variety of air power issues and debates. It is open to students from all backgrounds including the armed forces, industry, students from other disciplines and those who seek to expand their knowledge of this exciting subject within a structured academic environment.

The course is delivered on a flexible part-time basis over two years, through Saturday Schools, allowing you to fit your studies around work, family and other commitments.

The Department of History was ranked first in the country in the Research Excellence Framework 2014.

Course fact file

Type of Course: Taught

Study Options: Part time

Duration: 2 years part-time

Start date: September


Air Cdre (Ret’d) Dr Peter Gray
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 8423


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 six core modules (descriptions below)

  • Research Skills in Air Power: Methodology and Sources
  • The Evolution of Air Power Theory
  • 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 modules is assessed by completion of a 4,000-word essay and you will complete a 15,000-word dissertation at the end of your second year.

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 six core modules:

Research Skills in Air Power: Methodology and Sources

This module will introduce to the various sources of information – some general and some specific to air power. It will cover the literature, secondary sources, contemporary debates and where to find and use primary sources.

The Evolution of Air Power Theory

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.

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.

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 morality of 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 examine the wider aspects air warfare and the issues surrounding its application. It includes thought on stress, fatigue and how these problems have been dealt with through history.

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. Fees for 2015/16 are as follows:

  • Home/EU: £3,105 part-time

As this is a part-time programme, the above fee is for year one only and tuition fees will also be payable in year two of your programme.

Tuition fees can either be paid in full or by instalments.

Eligibility for Home/EU or Overseas fees can be verified with Admissions. Learn more about fees for international students.

Learn more about fees and funding.

Scholarships and studentships

Scholarships to cover fees and/or maintenance costs may be available. To discover whether you are eligible for any award across the University, and to start your funding application, please visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.

International students can often gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

Birmingham Masters Scholarship Scheme

For 2015 entry the University has 224 new £10,000 scholarships available for Masters students from under-represented groups. These scholarships have been jointly funded by the British Government; the allocation of the awards, which is the fourth highest in the UK, further cements Birmingham?s place amongst the very best higher education institutions for postgraduate study. The application deadline is 31 July 2015.

Entry requirements

A good Honours degree in History or an equivalent discipline. Other professional qualifications comparable to degree standard would also be considered, e.g., an Honours degree or higher degree in a subject other than History, or professional qualifications of degree standard such as law, accountancy, management, or published work in a relevant field. Every submission is considered on its own merits. 

Learn more about entry requirements

How to apply

Before you make your application

You may wish to register your interest with us to receive regular news and updates on postgraduate life within this Department and the wider University.

Making your application

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

Apply now


Air Cdre (Ret’d) Dr Peter Gray
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 8423

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).


Air Cdre (Ret’d) Dr Peter Gray
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 8423


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.


Air Cdre (Ret’d) Dr Peter Gray
Tel: +44 (0)121 414 8423