Students from a UK Armed Forces background

Universities and colleges welcome students from a diverse range of backgrounds and experience.

Veterans, or students whose parent(s), carer(s), or partner are current or former UK Armed Forces personnel may find there are unique circumstances to consider when making their applications. They may also be able to get extra support from their chosen university or college.


Students from UK Armed Forces families (Service children)

If your parent(s) or carer(s) is serving as a Regular or Reservist in the UK Armed Forces, or has done so in the past, your experience of applying to higher education may be different to students from a non-service background. For example, you may have moved schools more often than most students, or you may have felt unable to participate in extra-curricular activities.

Universities and colleges understand that students from UK Armed Forces families (Service children) may experience disruption to their education, or may have been restricted in their course choices. They’re also aware that young people can face additional challenges when a parent or carer is deployed. They are keen to know about your circumstances, because it allows them to consider your academic achievements in context. If you feel you have missed any skills or knowledge, they may be able to help through workshops or summer schools. You could also investigate MOOCs to help you prepare for your course, such as the Preparing for University course from FutureLearn.

But, universities and colleges aren’t only interested in your results. Students from UK Armed Forces families (Service children) often develop highly valued, unique skills and strengths as a result of their circumstances, such as being an independent learner, or being able to adapt to different situations quickly. The Service Children’s Progression (SCiP) Alliance has worked with UCAS to develop guidance for Students from UK Armed Forces families (Service children) applying to university – including advice on how to complete your personal statement to showcase these strengths.

Once you’re at university, you may be able to access additional support. This can include financial help, mentoring, and study support to help you fill any gaps in your learning. Before you apply, it’s a good idea to contact student support services at the university or college to check what help is available, and to discuss your needs. 

Read more about the support available for children from Armed Forces families on the Service Children’s Progression Alliance (SCiP Alliance) website. 


The UCAS application

For students applying to start their course in 2023, UCAS has introduced a new section in the application so you can share more information about your circumstances with the university or college – including whether you are from a UK Armed Forces family. This information means the university or college will be able to connect you to the right support for your needs quickly and easily and ensure you have all the information you need.

If either or both of your parents have served in the UK Armed Forces, just select ‘yes’ from the drop down box in the question that asks about this in the ‘More about me’ section of the application. You will not have to give any further details at this stage. Read more about sharing information about sharing your circumstances in the UCAS application on our FAQs page and in this blog article from the Ministry of Defence.

When you share this information, the university or college may get in touch with more information about how they can help you – and to tell you more about your options. This information is treated confidentially and only shared with those responsible for arranging support and helping you with your application. Knowing about your circumstances may also help admissions staff consider your achievements in context - it won’t reflect negatively on your application.

You are always in control – if you decide don’t want support, you can choose not to accept it, but if you change your mind later on, or if your circumstances change, it’s ready for you.

Remember: not all universities and colleges offer the same type of support so research your options before you make your application to ensure they offer what you need.

Some students wonder if they should mention their circumstances in their personal statement – this is a completely personal decision and you should only do so if you feel it is relevant to your application. We have worked with SCiP Alliance to create a guide to writing your personal statement.


Connect with other students from UK Armed Forces families (Service children)

If you are aged 16-19 and from an Armed Forces family, Connected Forces is an online community where you can chat to others in similar circumstances, get careers advice, develop your skills, and access resources. This a free and secure online platform created by SCiP Alliance, Brightside, and the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust to bring together young people from Armed Forces Families. Visit the website to sign up for details.


Do you have any care responsibilities?

If you care for a family member, whether this is consistently or periodically (e.g. when a parent is deployed), many universities and colleges can offer additional support to help you succeed in your studies, and manage your care responsibilities.

Find out more about students with caring responsibilities.


Where can I get more information?


Veterans and service leavers

If you have ever served as a Regular or Reservist in the UK Armed Forces, or remain a Reservist, you may find there are unique challenges involved in applying to university or college. However, there’s a broad range of support to assist you with making your application, and during your studies, regardless of whether you are still undergoing resettlement, or it has been several years since you made the transition to civilian life.

There are a number of schemes available through the Ministry of Defence (MOD) to help service leavers with ongoing training and education, such as the Enhanced Learning Credit (ELC) and Publicly Funded Further Education and Higher Education (PF FE/HE) schemes – find out more on the ELCAS website.

When applying to higher education, it can be difficult to understand how the training and qualifications gained in the UK Armed Forces compare to ‘traditional’ routes and qualifications, and whether they are recognised by different course providers. Many universities and colleges recognise or accredit prior learning (RPL/APL) to give accreditation for relevant knowledge, skills, and experience already gained, and some will match your rank and qualifications to existing civilian qualifications. This can vary between providers, so it’s important to contact them directly to discuss your options.

Remember to use the UCAS personal statement to highlight how your experience and prior training has helped you develop unique skills and strengths you can transfer to your studies.  

A number of higher education providers have signed the UK Armed Forces Covenant – and details can be found on their websites. 

Read more about the Covenant and what it means for you on the UK Armed Forces Covenant website. 


The UCAS application

For students applying to start their course in 2023, UCAS has introduced a new section in the application so you can share more information about your circumstances with the university or college – including whether you are a UK Armed Forces veteran or Service leaver. This information means the university or college will be able to connect you to the right support for your needs quickly and easily and ensure you have all the information you need.

If you have ever served in the UK Armed Forces, just select ‘yes’ from the drop down box in the question that asks about this in the ‘More about me’ section of the application. You will not have to give any further details at this stage. Read more about sharing information about being a veteran or Service leaver in the application on our FAQs page.

When you share this information, the university or college may get in touch with more information about how they can help you – and to tell you more about your options. This information is treated confidentially and only shared with those responsible for arranging support and helping you with your application. Knowing about your circumstances may also help admissions staff consider your achievements in context - it won’t reflect negatively on your application.

You are always in control – if you decide don’t want support, you can choose not to accept it, but if you change your mind later on, or if your circumstances change, it’s ready for you.

Remember: Not all universities and colleges offer the same type of support so research your options before you make your application to ensure they offer what you need.

Some students wonder if they should mention their circumstances in their personal statement – this is a completely personal decision and you should only do so if you feel it is relevant to your application.


Where can I get more information?


Spouses and partners of UK Armed Forces personnel

Partners and spouses of UK Armed Forces personnel can sometimes find it challenging to pursue their own education goals. We recommend discussing your circumstances with the university or college before you apply. They’ll give you more information about your options, and the support they can offer.

If high mobility is preventing you from applying to university or college, it might be worth investigating the different routes you can take, such as distance or online courses – find out more about distance and part-time learning. You may be able to change your university or college if you move – find out more about changing your course or provider. If you already have a professional qualification, refresher courses might help you back into a career.

The personal statement is a good opportunity to give more context around your circumstances and how these may have affected your study decisions, or previous education and employment. It is also important to consider how your experiences have given you skills that will be useful for your studies and ongoing career. With your permission, your referee may also highlight your background in your reference.

If you also have parenting or care responsibilities, additional support is available to help you during your studies, and with your transition to higher education:

Read more about going to university or college if you are a carer.

Find out about the support available to students with parenting responsibilities.


Where can I get more information?