Students who have served in the UK Armed Forces as a Regular or Reservist may find there are unique challenges involved in applying to higher education. We have worked with the Ministry of Defence and experts at the University of South Wales to offer practical ways to help them explore their options and prepare for their next step.

Pre-application and research phase

  • Identify students who have previously served in the regular UK Armed Forces, or as a reservist, and flag that support may be available in HE. 
  • Direct students to find out more information – a good starting point is the Ministry of Defence’s ELCAS website, which outlines the different schemes and funding available, and there is information and advice on
  • Ensure you and your student(s) know about Recognition/Accreditation of Prior Learning (RPL/APL), which enables former (and serving) Armed Forces personnel to apply for a higher education course using the relevant knowledge, skills, qualifications and experience they’ve gained, often in lieu of ‘traditional’ qualifications. In some cases, the student’s rank and qualifications are ‘matched’ to existing civilian qualifications. This can vary between different universities and colleges, so make sure they contact them directly to discuss their options. 
  • Advise the student to contact the academic tutor directly to discuss their circumstances before they apply – particularly if they are planning to apply with RPL/APL. 
  • Check what stage the student is at – are they still in the resettlement phase, or have they made a full transition to civilian life? Some support is specifically only available to those in the resettlement phase – the MOD’s Career Transitions Partnership (CTP) website provides more guidance
  • If the student has caring or parenting responsibilities, refer them to these web pages to help with their specific needs. 
  • For students who have physical and/or mental health conditions or impairments, encourage them to share this information on their UCAS application and let them know that there is support available in HE.  

When they’re applying

  • Encourage students to share their circumstances in the ‘more about me’ section of the application (for 2023 entry onwards), explaining that this information will be used to connect them to any support the university may offer. To find out more about sharing this information, visit the FAQs page.
  • Be aware that not all universities, colleges or courses are ELC approved – the ELCAS website has a search tool to help students find suitable universities, colleges and approved courses. 
  • Remind students to use their UCAS personal statement to highlight the many skills, experience, training, and qualifications gained during their time in the UK Armed Forces. This is especially important if the student is using RPL/APL to apply instead of ‘traditional’ entry qualifications. 
  • Ensure students ask for a reference from their commanding officer on discharge; they could also seek an additional reference from their educational resettlement officer.  


  • Prompt students to apply for any funding through student finance or MOD schemes as soon as possible. Note that there may be a timeframe in which to apply for ELCAS funding so urge the student to check this. 
  • Make sure they have spoken to the university or college about any other support needs (e.g. if they are a carer or parent, are disabled, or have a mental health condition). 

During Confirmation and Clearing

  • Make sure they know where to get support – pastoral support will be especially important if any results they are awaiting are lower than expected, or if their application is unsuccessful. 

Preparing for the transition to university or college

  • Ask if they have all practical matters in hand (e.g. personal arrangements with finances, travel, childcare, accommodation). 
  • Check what academic support is offered by the university or college to fill gaps in skills, or to boost confidence and readiness.  
  • Make students aware of MOOCs to help them prepare for HE – such as the ‘Preparing for university course’ from FutureLearn. Also check whether the university or college has any access-related online courses available. 
  • Encourage students to meet with the academic tutor before the course begins to discuss any questions or concerns they may have.   
  • Make sure they know who to contact at university or college if they have any questions or problems when they arrive. This may be a dedicated point-of-contact or the wider student support services team. 

For more support