Universities Minister announces changes to student funding to benefit armed forces members and their families…

Universities Minister Jo Johnson has announced plans to change student funding rules to benefit more armed forces personnel and their families who want to take up distance learning courses while posted abroad. The move will put an end to rules that prevent armed forces personnel and their family members getting access to student funding for distance learning courses because they have been posted abroad.

Under current rules, a prospective student must be resident in the UK on the first day of the first academic year of their course if they are to be eligible for a student loan.

This means that serving members of the armed forces posted overseas, and family members living with them, are unable to access loans for undergraduate or postgraduate distance learning courses if they are serving overseas on the first day of their course. They can also see their support cease if they are undertaking a distance learning course in England but are posted overseas during the academic year.

To stop personnel being placed at a disadvantage, the government is today announcing a new exemption that will allow them to gain student funding for a UK based distance learning course, even if they are posted overseas at the start or during the course itself.

There are thousands of different distance learning courses available from UK universities, with over 250,000 undergraduate students getting their first degree this way. Covering topics including accountancy, psychology and teaching, their flexible nature gives students, such as spouses of armed forces personnel, the opportunity to train and change career or find new employment in their temporary place of residence.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: "It is absolutely right that the government does all it can to support members of the armed forces and their families, recognising the service they provide to us all. By creating this exemption, we will allow members of the armed forces and their families to gain new qualifications and ensure they are not disadvantaged simply because they are posted overseas."

Defence Minister Mark Lancaster said: "It wasn’t fair on the armed forces community that, when posted abroad to serve our nation, they were not able to access the same funding for distance learning as people who live in the UK. That is why I am delighted that this government is removing that disadvantage, enabling these people to fulfil their ambitions. This is another example of our commitment to the Armed Forces Covenant which is a promise from the nation to ensure our service personnel and their families are treated fairly."

The government will update the Student Finance Regulations for undergraduate student support and postgraduate master’s loans. This will allow members of the armed forces and their families posted overseas to access student support for distance learning courses offered by UK institutions, even if they were not resident in England on the first day of the first academic year of their course.

Students will qualify for undergraduate tuition fee loans, postgraduate master’s degree loans and Disabled Students Allowances, if relevant.