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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 Territorial Army which provides military leadership training to students at British universities.

The name is misleading in that its mission is not the training of commissioned officers; only a small minority[5] of OTC members go on to further train, and subsequently, be commissioned as officers in the Regular or Territorial Army.[6] However, in recent years there has been a greater effort at OTCs to raise awareness of the career opportunities within the Regular or Territorial Army (although the mission statement has not changed). It is similar in some ways to the United States Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps, with which several OTCs have a regular exchange.[7]

In 2011, an MoD study recommended the downgrading of UOTCs to sub-units (commanded by a major rather than a lieutenant colonel) and the formation of twelve Officer Training Regiments, each comprising one or two OTC companies and a TA Officer Training Wing. The study also concluded that OTC Officer Cadets should not be attested or paid in their first year.[8] However, only two Officer Training Regiments (OTR) were formed, Yorkshire OTR (compromising Sheffield and Leeds UOTCs) and North West OTR (compromising Manchester and Liverpool UOTCs). Furthermore, OTC Officer Cadets are still attested into the Army Reserve on joining, and are paid when on duty.[9]


The origins of Cambridge University Officers’ Training Corps date to 1803 when, with Britain under threat of French invasion, Cambridge University undergraduates formed a corps of Rifle Volunteers to help defend British shores. Thereafter, the Cambridge University Rifle Volunteers (CURV) was raised formally in 1860. During British involvement in the Second Boer War in 1899 there was a public focus on volunteering for the Armed Forces serving in South Africa. In response to this, over 100 members of CURV[10] applied, however due to age, qualification, training and critically the ability to shoot excellently meant that only 28 were successful. Joined with The Suffolk Regiment, on 20 January 1900 in Bury St Edmunds the CURV reported for duty. On 11 February that they sailed from Southampton on the S.S. Doune Castle arriving in Cape Town on 7 March. Initially the Cambridge Volunteers worked as guards to the railway lines around Cape Town but alongside the Suffolks they joined the siege at 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 guarding the railways from the Boer ‘Commando’ style 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, with supporting 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. This welcome included all the Volunteers being made Honorary Freemen of the Borough of Cambridge and on 21 December 1904, three years later, CURV were 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 the Gordon Highlanders was recruited and in 1898 the detachment became University Company ("U" Coy).

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 (now the Combined Cadet Force) 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 contingent was formally established as the Glasgow University Officer Training Corps and incorporated in the new Territorial Force, which was created by the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act 1907. During the First World War, the senior OTCs became officer producing units and some 30,000 officers passed through, but after the war reverted to their basic military training role.

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.

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

There are eighteen Officers' Training Corps throughout the United Kingdom, each of which serves the universities 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 and stable belt. Most OTCs are split into a number of sub-units representing different arms and services, which cadets join when they have completed their initial training. On 1 April 2005 there were 4,257 personnel in the OTCs. OTC members are classed as Officer Cadets (OCdt) and can gain internal appointments to Junior Under Officer and Senior Under Officer. They are "Group B" members of the Territorial Army with whom they are neither trained nor liable for mobilised (active) service.[13] Cadets have no obligation to join the armed forces when they leave university and can resign from the OTC at any time; indeed 90% of those serving with an OTC do not go on to either the Regular or Territorial Army.[5]

The officers and non-commissioned officers, who function as instructors and administrative and support staff, are a mixture of Regular Army and Territorial Army (including Non Regular Permanent Staff).

Mission statement

The Officers' Training Corps is intended to develop the leadership potential of selected university students. It aims to achieve this through enjoyable and challenging training. In providing such an experience, it hopes to communicate the values, ethos and career opportunities of the British Army.[14]


Now all Officer Training Corps come under the Command of Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and follow a syllabus set by the RMAS[citation needed]. Responsibility is given to individual OTCs how to execute the curriculum under close coordination with RAMS and other OTCs[citation needed]. Considerable care is put to make the training challenging, enjoyable and relevant[citation needed]. 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 Commission 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 to attach with other regular TA units to participate in their Annual Camps and other military exercises all over the world, usually after completion of Mod 1 and sometimes completion of Mod 2 is required. Opportunities are available to do attachments with Regular Army over Summer or Easter holidays.

Year one

Basic military training: Called MOD 1[citation needed], this year involves military drill, individual skills and field craft. Cadets are introduced to a range of basic military techniques, including map reading, camouflage, first aid, weapons training, radio procedure and field craft. Procedures such as how to establish an overnight patrol base and how to fire and manoeuvre effectively as part of a team are also covered.

Year two

Called MOD 2[citation needed], this introduces Officer cadets to Military Leadership at a Platoon level. This involves the planning and decision making process, giving orders, ensuring they are carried out, directing a constructive debrief after an exercise and ensuring the welfare of all those under their command[citation needed].

Year three and beyond

Some cadets choose to attempt officer selection and gain a commission with the OTC; others choose to spend the remainder of their time with the OTC as Officer cadets. The minority who go on to join the regular army after OTC undertake the same training as those joining from civilian life.

Adventurous training and social life

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 Territorial Army's resources for adventurous training,[15] 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.[16][17]

Individual units

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 and Anglia Ruskin University [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

The British Army run several competitions throughout the academic year where the nineteen OTCs and the four DTUS squadrons have a chance to compete against each other. One of these is the Queen's Challenge Cup, a sports competition.[18]


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), Officer Training Corps (OTC) and University Air Squadron (UAS) from operating within University College London Union 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.[19]

Through a subsequent motion passed through the Union Council the decisions made at the Annual General Meeting were ratified;[20] however the ban was subsequently overturned by a large majority in following year's AGM of 27 February 2009.[21]

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.[22] However, this proposal failed.[22]

See also


  1. "No. 59415". 11 May 2010. 
  2. "No. 59826". 21 June 2011. 
  3. "No. 59898". 6 September 2011. 
  4. MOD website
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Social". "Members of CUOTC leave Cambridge to benefit strongly in civilian careers (90%) or as high-achieving officers mainly in the Regular Army (8%) but also the Territorial Army (2%)." 
  6. "University Officer Training Corps About Us". Ministry of Defence. "UOTCs are military units but it is not about training students for war. Many UOTC members do go on to join the Armed Forces, both full and part time, but the majority have no further contact with the forces after they graduate." 
  8. "Error: no |title= specified when using {{Cite web}}". MoD. June 2011. 
  12. 1st Lanarkshire (Glasgow 1st Western) Rifle Volunteers
  13. "Liverpool UOTC - Frequently Asked Questions". Ministry of Defence. ". Can I get called up to go to war? NO. Plain and Simple. You are not a soldier, you are a student with an interest in the Army. If you want to go on tour, then join the Regular Army or TA. From October 2009 to April 2010 UOTC Officer cadets were not paid for undertaking training; although since April 2010 payment has been restarted. OTC Officer Cadets can apply to the Army Officer Selection Board and, if they pass, attempt to complete the TA Commissioning Course (TACC) with the goal of a commission as a Second Lieutenant." 
  14. "University Officer Training Corps". MoD. 
  18. "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" 
  19. Phillips, Martin (8 March 2008). "Our heroes deserve respect". The Sun. London. 
  22. 22.0 22.1 "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

  • 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

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