ABF The Soldiers’ Charity are delighted to have awarded The Open University a grant of £20,000 to contribute towards the support services of the Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund. This is a unique scheme designed to give disabled veterans the opportunity of a university education when their military careers end.

The Open University (OU) is the world’s leading distance learning provider with a mission to make education open and accessible for all. This year, the OU are celebrating their 50th Anniversary, marking fifty years of promoting accessible educational opportunity to all who wish to realise their potential.

Presently, over 1,000 active servicemen and women from the UK Armed forces are enrolled in OU study. The ability to learn anytime, anywhere, has made the OU the University of Choice for many serving military personnel, and they work closely with the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to support their education. The MoD, along with many military charities and organisations have provided the OU with guidance to design a programme that meets the needs of disabled veterans and reaches this important audience effectively. The OU has also drawn on their experience and expertise in supporting their 24,000 disabled students, the largest student population with a registered disability of any academic institution in the UK.

This ABF The Soldiers’ Charity grant will be used to support the ongoing cost of the dedicated support service team who provide assistance to existing disabled veteran students, helping them overcome any obstacles that their disability may present while studying. The team include specialist disability support staff who are all committed to the success of the students as they progress through OU study. The inaugural cohort of disabled veteran students (2018-2019), also supported by grant funding from ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, have enrolled on courses in psychology, sport and social care, business, languages, law and STEM subjects.

Disabled Veterans’ Scholarships Fund recipients said:

“To just have that independence now to say you can do something, you can’t put a price on that.”

“People in the military have had quite a lot of investment in them and what they bring to the workplace is next to none, we will always be on time, always produce and go further than we have to because it’s pride and it’s having that ability in ourselves to have pride in what we do.”

“This is a new chance for me, this is a new beginning, somebody has seen something in me, I can’t let them down. It’s very hard for me who hasn’t studied since 1989, very hard but it’s going to be worth it.”

Jhumar Johnson, Director of Development, The Open University said:

“There are estimated to be 2.5 million veterans living in the UK, men and women who have dedicated their lives to the safety of the country. This programme is about giving something back to those who deserve it the most.

“We support over 24,000 students with a registered disability, delivering distance learning straight into students homes, helping people learn anywhere at anytime irrespective to the mental or physical health challenges they might face.

“With the UK suffering from a shortage of skilled individuals, we have a community of veterans with a wealth of talents and skills that can be recognised and developed. Our priority is to ensure that recipients are able to take full advantage of educational opportunity, building confidence, knowledge and opening up a future, bright with potential to thrive in a post-service career.”

Lieutenant General Richard Nugee CVO CBE, Chief of Defence People, Ministry of Defence said:

“Veterans have amazing skills, they have an ethos you never lose regardless of your age or however long you’ve been away from the Armed Forces, an ethos of: I’m really proud to serve my country and if I can’t serve my country in the Forces anymore I can serve my country in society.

“Veterans are far better than they think they are, we come from an environment in the Armed Forces where it is always about the team and not about the individual – this is about you as an individual veteran and what this programme shows is our veterans are really good in their own right.”

Brigadier (Ret’d) Robin Bacon, Chief of Staff at ABF The Soldiers’ Charity, added: “Education is a key area of focus for the charity and we are pleased to be helping The Open University with allowing veterans to access education and become equipped with essential skills which will become the building blocks of their future careers.”