The planning and the creation of the Department Strategic Studies in the Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University, was done in the late 1980s. The Chief of the Defence Force at the time, Genl Jannie Geldenhuys, identified the need for education in strategic studies at the Military Academy as a result of the military experiences of the South African armed forces in Angola. At the time, the University of South Africa (UNISA) had a Department of Strategic Studies that was headed by Prof Deon Fourie with an honours, MA en PhD programme in strategic studies. At the University of Pretoria, Prof Mike Hough was the Director of the Institute of Strategic Studies. The Institute of Strategic Studies at Pretoria University – ISSUP as it was widely known – also presented postgraduate qualifications in strategic studies. In the 1980s, many officers in the SADF did postgraduate studies at these two institutions. As is the case in the rest of the world, strategic studies was presented at these institutions only at postgraduate level with an undergraduate grounding in history and political science. Both the Department of Strategic Studies at UNISA and ISSUP have since been closed or morphed into programmes with an emphasis on international affairs and security. Genl Geldenhuys, however, was of the view that strategic studies should be presented to undergraduate students at the Military Academy. Strategic studies was therefore first presented as part of and within the Department of Military History with Mr Johan Burger as the first lecturer, before a “Department of Military Strategy" was established in the early 1990s. In 2018 the name of the department was officially changed from the Department of Military Strategy to the Department of Strategic Studies.
“Strategic Studies", Isabelle Duyvesteyn and James E. Worrall explain in a recent article, “is an inter-disciplinary field of study, which at its core examines the ways in which military power and other coercive instruments may be used to achieve political ends in the course of a dynamic interaction of (at least) two competing wills" [emphasis added]. The reference in the definition to other coercive elements refers to the use of diplomacy and economic means as instruments of force. For the French general, Andre Beaufré, strategic studies is the study of the use of force to resolve disputes. Note, Beaufré does not restrict the study to the use of military force or military disputes. John Baylis and James J. Wirtz, in their widely used textbook, Strategy in the Modern World, utilise Colin S. Gray's well-known definition of the field as basis for analysis: strategic studies is the study of the theory and practice of the use, and threat of use, of organised force for political purposes. Organised force should not be understood in an exclusive manner, but as an all-inclusive use of the powerbases of the state.
Strategic Studies is therefore more narrow in scope and focus than International Relations (IR) as a sub-discipline of Political Science. At the same time, though, it is more theoretical and broader in scope than Defence and Military Studies that relies predominantly on Military History as foundation. Strategic Studies as a scholarly discipline is thus located in the fault line between Political Science and Military History. This is also the case in the School for Security and Africa Studies in the Faculty of Military Science and the programme in security and Africa studies. Today, strategic studies is presented at both an undergraduate and graduate within the faculty; and at a graduate MMil and PhD level to civilian students of the university. The Department is also involved in the teaching programmes of the Faculty at the service, war and defence colleges of the South African National Defence Force. Also, the Department has a health tradition of research and regularly contributes and participates in debates on strategic issues nationally and within the broader academic fraternity.