Man sitting in a wheelchair

Open University scholarship fund for disabled Veterans

The OU is launching a fundraising drive to offer free undergraduate degree courses to disabled veterans of the armed forces.

It aims to raise an initial sum of £2.5 million from private and public donors to establish a Disabled Veterans Scholarship Fund to help tap a huge untapped pool of talent by helping former service personnel maximise their skills, education and knowledge.

In keeping with the OU’s founding principles, the applicants for the scholarship will not be required to have any formal education qualifications.

The OU has a long experience in working with disabled students – many of whom would find it difficult to attend a traditional face-to-face university – and a deep understanding of how high-level skills training through distance learning can transform their lives.

Vice-Chancellor of The Open University, Peter Horrocks, said:

This exciting scheme aims to help some of the people who have made deep personal sacrifices in the service of their country. We hope education can help transform their lives as it has many thousands of others.

“The OU currently has 24,500 students with disabilities and we know how much they appreciate the chance to develop their careers or simply extend their education through tailored distance learning.

“Some former military personnel, particularly those with disabilities, can face real barriers and frustrations in realising their ambitions. We want to remove those barriers and help them build their skills and confidence so they can truly fulfil their potential.”

The scheme has the support of the Ministry of Defence, which is responsible for veterans’ affairs.

Defence Minister, Mark Lancaster, said:

This is yet another example of the Armed Forces Covenant in action. Just a year after signing, it is great to see that The Open University is continuing its pledge to deliver accessible higher education opportunities to the brave men and women that have served our country.

The University is a signatory to the Armed Forces Covenant and currently has around 2,000 students who are active or former service personnel. The initial phase of fundraising will provide 100 scholarships and the necessary academic support. If successful, it is hoped the scheme can be expanded to include other veterans and their families.

Mike Trott, 31, joined the Army in his late teens and spent two years as a private with the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers before being medically discharged. With an OU Foundation Degree in Sport and Fitness leading him onto further qualifications, he is now an International Trainer with a fitness company and a guest writer for two fitness websites.

Mr Trott, originally from Bristol but now living in Dublin, said: “Because of my injuries I was eligible for financial aid, and the flexibility of the OU meant I could carry on working whilst I was studying. The tutors were great and the module materials easy to follow.

"I enjoyed my studies, but getting my degree wasn’t without its challenges – the biggest one was learning how to write academically.  I was what you might describe as a ‘typical’ soldier, but studying with the OU has changed me as a person. Without my OU qualification, I wouldn’t be where I am today.”

The Fund will be launched by Keith Zimmerman, University secretary at The Open University, at a reception in London on Wednesday 22nd March.

To donate online visit www.open.ac.uk/donatenow, to donate by phone call 01908 655 044 between 0900 and 1700. More information at giving.open.ac.uk.