Khaki University: Steering Soldiers Away From Vice

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Khaki University: Steering Soldiers Away From Vice

Canada, near the end of World War I, devised an idea to keep its soldiers occupied during their down time, steering them away from vice, and preparing them for postwar life.  This idea was Khaki University.

The program, originally called Khaki College, was the brainchild of Dr. Henry Marshall Tory.  The National Council of the YMCA was active in Europe, setting up facilities for soldiers to enjoy recreation and sports or to conduct Bible studies.

Tory reported for the YMCA on the needs of men returning to civilian life. He recommended that men would benefit greatly from access to education.

Initially, courses were taught by chaplains, but soon classes were instructed by professors, officers and men who held teaching degrees. In September 1918, the program was recognized as a formal educational institution by the Canadian government and became a university.

Khaki University was used as a model for other nations.

Khaki Courses

Men attending Khaki University
Men attending Khaki University

Classes were held in army camps and hospitals throughout France and Britain. They ranged from self-study and hands-on training to study groups and formal lectures.

Students could fill any gap in their skill set, from learning to how read to university-level courses. Credits earned could be applied to any educational institution back home.

Among the courses offered were:

  • High school matriculation
  • Agriculture
  • Foreign languages
  • Cooking
  • Science
  • Speaking
  • Business management
  • Singing
  • Teaching programs
  • Mechanics
  • Medicine
  • Law
  • Banking
  • Composition
  • Shorthand

Textbooks were approved in Canada before being sent to Europe, and certificates were awarded upon completion of courses.  Libraries also were established.

In addition, classes in homemaking were taught to English women who had married Canadian soldiers and women who planned to move to Canada after the war.

Changing Lives

A Khaki University certificate of completion
A Khaki University certificate of completion

For many men, education brought them hope. For some, it allowed them to restart civilian life with their skills sharp. For others, it was the start of a new life full of opportunity; 3,000 men learned how to read and write.

By Armistice, 20,000 men were taking classes.

Postwar study was divided into two semesters: October 1918-January 1919 and February-May 1919. The soldiers all were demobilized by June 1919, and Khaki University closed.

By the time all the soldiers returned home, 50,000 had attended classes, 1,000 at university level.


Updated: 23 October 2020
Melina Druga
Most kids have an active imagination. My imagination has stayed strong into adulthood, and I’ve funneled that creativity into a successful writing career. I write history, both fiction and nonfiction, because although your school history classes may have been boring, the past is not. My goal is to bring the past to life in all its myriad of colors.
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