Officers' Training Corps

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A Saladin armoured car of the Cambridge University OTC on exercise in 1974

The Officers' Training Corps (OTC),[1][2][3] sometimes called the University Officers' Training Corps (UOTC),[4] is a part of the British Army Reserve (formerly the Territorial Army) which provides military leadership training to students at British universities.

The majority of members of the UOTC do not go on to serve in the regular or reserve forces.[5][6][7] UOTC members on full-time university courses are not obligated to serve on operations, nor are they qualified to so do. Any officer cadet can resign at any time by making a formal request.[8]

The mission of the OTC is to develop the leadership skills of officer cadets through undergoing military training, adventure training, and social activities, and raise awareness of the Army.[9] The curriculum is administered and directed by the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst.


Oxford University[edit]

Oxford UOTC claims descent from the bodyguard to Charles I that students of the University of Oxford formed in 1642, during the English Civil War. But the immediate origin of the present body is the 1st Oxfordshire (Oxford University) Rifle Volunteer Corps, formed in 1859 and established (together with many other volunteer corps across the country) in response to the threat of war with France. From 1881, the OURVC served as one of several volunteer battalions of the Oxfordshire Light Infantry and in 1887 it became known as the 1st (Oxford University) Volunteer Battalion or the Oxford University Volunteers (OUV). The OUOTC was then was one of 23 such bodies formed at universities in Great Britain following the establishment of the Officers' Training Corps by Royal Warrant in 1908.[10]

Cambridge University[edit]

Cambridge University Officers' Training Corps claims descent from a unit raised in 1803, when, with Britain under threat of French invasion, Cambridge University undergraduates formed a corps of Volunteers to help defend British shores. Thereafter, the Cambridge University Rifle Volunteers (CURV) was formally raised in 1860. During British involvement in the Second Boer War in 1899 there was a public focus on volunteering for the forces serving in South Africa. In response to this, more than one hundred members of CURV applied; however, due to age, qualifications, training and, critically, the ability to shoot excellently, only 28 were successful.

Attached to the Suffolk Regiment, the CURV men reported for duty on 20 January 1900 in Bury St Edmunds. On 11 February, they sailed from Southampton on the SS Doune Castle, arriving in Cape Town on 7 March. Initially the Cambridge Volunteers worked as guards on the railway lines around Cape Town, but alongside the Suffolks they joined the siege of Pretoria on 4 June. Although the defending Boer guns sent down artillery fire, no casualties were taken and the city had fallen by the time the Volunteers arrived. This marked the end of the conventional phase of the Boer War and the progression into a more guerrilla style warfare, and the Volunteers guarded the railways from the Boer commando attacks.

When the Suffolk Regiment marched as part of General Mahon's column to attack a Boer position in Barberton, the Cambridge Volunteers joined them. With 600 Boers entrenched around the town, supported by artillery, the battle was over before the Volunteers had arrived. However, due to their prowess at shooting, they were detailed to harrying the retreating Boers with long-range rifle fire. After more guard duties, they disembarked from Cape Town in April 1901 and returned to Britain on 4 May.

With a large welcome home awaiting them, including a service in Great St Mary’s Church, the volunteers were back in Cambridge on 6 May 1901. All the Volunteers were made Honorary Freemen of the Borough of Cambridge and on 21 December 1904, three years later, CURV was granted the battle honour "South Africa 1900-01". In 1908, CURV was renamed Cambridge University Officers' Training Corps and remains the only Officers' Training Corps to be awarded a battle honour.[11]


In 1880s, Glasgow professors such as William John Macquorn Rankine and students formed two infantry companies as part of the local 1st Lanarkshire (Glasgow 1st Western) Rifle Volunteers.[12] This unit later became the 5th Battalion of the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles), based at West Princes Street drill hall in the Woodlands area of Glasgow.

In Aberdeen, the first formed university unit was a battery of the 1st Aberdeen Volunteer Royal Artillery, raised in December 1885. The battery was officered by members of the university staff and commanded by Captain William Stirling, then professor of physiology. In March 1895, the University Battery was absorbed by the 1st Heavy Battery. In November 1897, an Aberdeen University detachment of the 1st Volunteer Battalion, Gordon Highlanders, was recruited, and in 1898 the detachment became University Company ("U" Company).

Haldane Reforms[edit]

The emergence of the OTC as a distinct unit began in 1906, when the Secretary of State for War, Lord Haldane, first appointed a committee to consider the problem of the shortage of officers in the Militia, the Volunteer Force, the Yeomanry, and the Reserve of Officers. The committee recommended that an Officers' Training Corps be formed. The Corps was to be in two divisions: a junior division in public schools and a senior division in the universities.

In October 1908, therefore, authorised by Army Order 160 of July 1908, as part the Haldane Reforms of the Reserve forces, the contingents were formally established as the Officers' Training Corps and incorporated into the new Territorial Force, which was created by the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907.

First World War[edit]

During the First World War, the senior OTCs became officer producing units and some 30,000 officers passed through, but after the war they reverted to their basic military training role.

Inter-war period[edit]

During the 1930s, the OTCs began to increase in strength. They peaked in 1938 during the Munich Crisis. In the Second World War they again became officer producing units for the army.

Post-Second World War[edit]

In 1948, the senior OTC divisions became part of the Territorial Army, and women were accepted for the first time with the formation of Women's Royal Army Corps sub-units. Women are now fully integrated into all sections. The junior divisions, by then renamed the Junior Training Corps, became the Army Sections of the Combined Cadet Force. For the next twelve years, until its abolition in 1960, the corps' aim was to prepare students for National Service.

Present day[edit]

There are now eighteen OTCs throughout the United Kingdom, each of which serves the universities and Army Reserve units in a distinct geographic area. Those serving larger areas may have several detachments. Each OTC is effectively an independent regiment, with its own cap badge, its own stable belt, and its own customs and traditions.

OTC members are classed as Officer Cadets (OCdt) and are members of the Army Reserve, paid when on duty. OTC members cannot be mobilised for active service. Officer cadets can gain appointments as a Junior Under Officer (JUO) or a Senior Under Officer (SUO) and can also apply to the Army Officer Selection Board (AOSB), which, if they pass, leads to the opportunity to attempt the Army Reserve Commissioning Course with the goal of a commission as a Second Lieutenant.[13]

Officer cadets have no obligation to join the armed forces when they leave university and can resign from the OTC at any time. The OTC is led by officers and non-commissioned officers, who function as instructors and support staff, from the Regular Army, Army Reserve, and Non Regular Permanent Staff.[13]


Training follows a syllabus as laid out by the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Weekly training nights are used to build up theory and basic practical lessons. Training and exercises, usually at weekends, are structured around the academic calendar. Most activities take place during the winter and spring terms, with a two-week summer camp, scheduled early to allow for other commitments. Having successfully completed basic training, the amount of time cadets commit to activities depends on the amount of time they can spare[14]

Training varies depending on the OTC, but the same basic content is covered. There are two Military Training Qualification tests to take in the first two years, involving written and practical tests. Some OTCs are purely infantry units; others have different wings, offering specialist training focused on a particular arm or service, including the infantry, Royal Armoured Corps, Royal Artillery, Royal Engineers, Royal Signals, Royal Logistic Corps, and Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.[15]

Year one: Basic training[edit]

This year involves instruction in all basic military techniques, including drill, map reading, camouflage, first aid, weapons training, small unit tactics, radio procedure, and fieldcraft.[15]

Year two: Leadership training[edit]

Having learnt how to be a member of an effective military team, the second year teaches cadets how to manage soldiers, equipment, and the battlefield. This involves everything from planning an attack, to giving effective orders and ensuring they are carried out and from directing a constructive debrief after an exercise to ensuring the welfare of all of those under command.[15]

Year three: Leadership in action[edit]

An increasing number of cadets choose to go forward for officer selection, either in the Regular Army or Army Reserve; others choose to spend the remainder of their time in the OTC as senior cadets, leading and supervising new recruits.


At the end of each module, officer cadets must pass the assessments in order to progress to the next module. In order to progress to commissioning as an officer, all modules must be completed as well as a final Module 4 at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Many officer cadets also volunteer for attachments with other Army Reserve units to participate in their annual camps and other military exercises all over the world, usually after completion of Module 1 (Year 1), although sometimes completion of Module 2 (Year 2) is required. Opportunities are available to do attachments with Regular Army units over summer or Easter vacations.

Adventurous training and social life[edit]

Concurrently with military training, many OTCs provide the opportunity to pursue sporting and adventurous hobbies. Sports such as skiing, mountain trekking, climbing, and sailing are actively encouraged. With access to the Army Reserve's resources for adventurous training,[16] students are enabled to pursue their other hobbies alongside their degrees. Socially, the OTCs hold frequent parties and informal social events throughout the year which attract local press coverage.[17][18] Social events and cheap alcohol are a significant element of UOTCs' offer to students and a focus of their recruitment.[19][20][21]

Individual units[edit]

Recruits From External Website
Aberdeen UOTC Aberdeen University, Robert Gordon University and Aberdeen College [1]
Queen's UOTC Queen's University Belfast and the University of Ulster [2]
Birmingham UOTC University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, University College Birmingham, Warwick, Aston, Coventry, Wolverhampton, Worcester, Keele, Staffordshire University and Harper Adams University College [3]
Bristol UOTC University of Bristol, University of Bath, University of the West of England and Bath Spa University [4]
Cambridge UOTC Cambridge University, University of East Anglia, Anglia Ruskin University, University of Hertfordshire and University of Essex [5]
City of Edinburgh UOTC University of Edinburgh, Napier University, Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh College of Art, Scottish Agricultural College and Queen Margaret's University [6]
East Midlands UOTC Nottingham University, Nottingham Trent University, Northampton University, Leicester University, Derby University, De Montfort University, Loughborough University, University of Lincoln [7]
Exeter UOTC Exeter University, Plymouth University, [8]
Glasgow and Strathclyde UOTC Glasgow University, Strathclyde University, Glasgow Caledonian University, University of the West of Scotland [9]
Liverpool UOTC University of Liverpool, Lancaster University, Liverpool John Moores University, Hope College, University of Central Lancashire, Edge Hill University College, St. Martins College, Chester College [10]
University of London Officers' Training Corps (ULOTC) Anglia, Birkbeck, Brighton, Brunel, Bucks Chiltern, Camberwell College of Arts, (University of the Arts), Canterbury, Central School of Speech & Drama, Central St Martin's School of Art & Design (University of the Arts), Chelsea College of Art & Design (University of the Arts), City Courtauld Institute of Fine Art, East London, Essex, Goldsmith's, Greenwich, Hertfordshire, Heythrop, Imperial, Kent, King's College, Kingston, London Business School, London College of Communication (University of the Arts), London College of Fashion (University of the Arts), London Metropolitan, LSE, Luton, Middlesex, Queen Mary, Roehampton, Royal Academy of Music, Royal College of Art, Royal College of Music, Royal Holloway, Royal Veterinary College, SOAS, South Bank, St Georges, St Mary's, Surrey, Sussex, Thames Valley, UCL - Gower Street and Royal Free, Westminster [11]
Manchester and Salford UOTC University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University, University of Salford [12]
Northumbrian UOTC Universities of Newcastle, Northumbria, Durham, Teesside and Sunderland [13]
Oxford UOTC Oxford University, Oxford Brookes University, Reading University, Royal Agricultural College Cirencester, The University of Gloucestershire and the Royal Military College Shrivenham [14]
Southampton UOTC University of Winchester, Solent University, Bournemouth University, Southampton University, Portsmouth University [15]
Tayforth UOTC St. Andrews University, Dundee University, Abertay University, Stirling University [16]
Wales UOTC Cardiff University, UWIC, Aberystwyth, Bangor, Swansea, University of Glamorgan, Wrexham, Chester. [17]
Yorkshire Officers' Training Regiment (formerly Yorkshire Universities OTC) University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Leeds Universities, Bradford University, Huddersfield University, York University and Hull University [18]

Inter-OTC competitions[edit]

The British Army runs several competitions throughout the academic year where the OTCs and the four Defence Technical Undergraduate Scheme (DTUS) squadrons have a chance to compete against each other. One of these is the Queen's Challenge Cup, a sports competition.[22]


In March 2008, a motion was passed during the University College London Union's annual general meeting to ban armed forces groups and societies such as the University Royal Naval Unit (URNU), Officers' Training Corps (OTC) and University Air Squadron (UAS) from operating within UCLU locations and events. This action made headlines in the British national press, partly due to an unrelated issue at the time where RAF personnel in Peterborough had been ordered not to wear uniform off-site for fear of aggression from members of the public.[23]

Through a subsequent motion passed through the Union Council, the decisions made at the annual general meeting were ratified;[24] however, the ban was subsequently overturned by a large majority in following year's AGM of 27 February 2009.[25]

This coincides with similar actions taken at the University of Cambridge and Goldsmiths College. The University of Manchester followed with a proposal to ban military recruitment which also received press attention.[26] However, this proposal failed.[26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59415. p. 8520. 11 May 2010.
  2. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59826. p. 11723. 21 June 2011.
  3. ^ The London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 59898. p. 16986. 6 September 2011.
  4. ^ MOD website
  5. ^ "London University Officer Training Corps". MoD. "whether a Cadet goes on to become an Army Officer or, like the majority, takes up a civilian career." 
  6. ^ "Cambridge University Officer Training Corps". MoD. "At Cambridge UOTC our leadership development program is set to the same standards of military training that all Officers must undergo at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst." 
  7. ^ |title= Information on Reserve Officer Commissioning for Army Reservists |publisher=MoD
  8. ^ "University Officer Training Corps". MoD. "OTC members are classed as Officer Cadets (OCdt) and are members of the Army Reserve, paid when on duty. UOTC members cannot be mobilised for active service.... OCdts have no obligation to join the armed forces when they leave university and can resign from the OTC at any time." 
  9. ^ "University Officer Training Corps". MoD. 
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ 1st Lanarkshire (Glasgow 1st Western) Rifle Volunteers
  13. ^ a b "University Officer Training Corps". MoD. 
  14. ^ "Military Training". MoD. 
  15. ^ a b c "Military Training". MoD. 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "OTC Annual Report 2005-6". "For the first time this year the Queen's Challenge Cup (formerly a TA sports cup) will be awarded to the winners of an inter-UOTC sports competition" 
  23. ^ Phillips, Martin (8 March 2008). "Our heroes deserve respect". The Sun (London). 
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ a b "Student military recruitment row". BBC News. 26 April 2008. Retrieved 20 May 2010. 


  • G.J. Eltringham. Nottingham University Officers' Training Corps 1909-1964. Privately published. 1964.
  • Col. F.H.L. Errington. Inns of Court Officers Training Corps During the Great War. Naval and Military Press. New edition of 1920 edition. 2001.
  • Hew Strachan. History of the Cambridge University Officers Training Corps. Midas Books. 1976. ISBN 978-0-85936-059-3.
  • Harold C.A. Hankins. A History of the Manchester and Salford Universities Officers Training Corps 1898-2002. DP & G Military Publishers. 2002.
  • Herbert John Johnston. The Queen's University (Belfast) Contingent of the Officers Training Corps: Sixty years of the O.T.C.: diamond jubilee 1908-1968. Queen's University OTC. 1968.
  • Roger Talbot Willoughby. Military History of the University of Dublin and its Officers' Training Corps 1910-22. Medal Society of Ireland. 1989. ISBN 978-0-9513869-0-3.
  • University of London. University of London Officers Training Corps, Roll of War Service 1914-1919. Privately published? 2010. ISBN 978-1-177-07206-9.

External links[edit]

  • UOTC official page on the Army website
  • [19] - website for the University of London Officers Training Corps
  • ULOTC archives - University of London Officers Training Corps archives
  • COMEC - Council of Military Education Committees, who liaise between universities and the British Armed Forces