Universities urged to do more to help soldiers and their families get into higher education
UK universities must do more to help serving and former armed forces personnel and their families, ministers have said.
Fewer than a quarter (24%) of young people whose parents are in the armed forces go on to higher education - compared with 43% for the general population.
In a letter to institutions across the country, Universities Minister Chris Skidmore and Defence minister Tobias Ellwood called on universtiies to sign up to the Armed Forces Covenant, which asks institutions to remove barriers faced by veterans
Just 57 out of 137 UK universities, including just three in the Russell Group, have currently made the pledge.
The call comes as the Department of Education confirmed £5m of continued funding for higher education places for the armed forces in England.
Schemes include paying for tuition fees for first-time university goers, and providing scholarships for children of service personnel killed in the line of duty.
Mr Skidmore said: “The scholarships offered by these two crucial higher education schemes empower those who have fought for our country, or whose parents have paid the ultimate sacrifice.
“Nearly 60 of our universities have signed up to delivering the Armed Forces Covenant, which provides rights for veterans and their families to access education, and I know universities such as Winchester have long had outreach programmes with their local armed forces communities.
“I’m sure all universities will wish to consider the benefits of being a civic university that supports armed forces families in their communities, which is why I have written urging them all to actively consider signing up to the Covenant.”
Young people from military service families have a 19% lower participation rate in higher education than the overall population, according to research by the University of Winchester.
The Government is urging campuses to support measures such as ensuring admissions policies cater for the needs of the armed forces community and benchmark military experience and qualifications against course entry requirements.
Mr Ellwood added: “Signing the Armed Forces Covenant is a fantastic way to show support for our former and current service men and women, as well as their families.
“Thousands of businesses and organisations have already pledged to make a difference, and I’m pleased that so many of this country’s universities have already followed in their footsteps - with the Universities of South Wales and Lincolnshire and London South Bank University receiving awards last year for their work supporting the military community.
“Today, I want to make sure that all universities understand the value of supporting our armed forces and their families, and I encourage them to step up and sign our pledge.”