East Midlands Universities unite in support for Armed Forces Covenant

Representatives from all nine universities in the East Midlands gathered at the University of Leicester on Friday to re-sign the Armed Forces Covenant. The AFC is a Government initiative which commits employers to supporting Armed Forces personnel including veterans, reserve and cadet forces and forces families. The revised agreements include new, clear-cut promises to support Armed Forces personnel.

The event also marked the achievement of 500 Armed Forces Covenant signatories in the region by East Midlands Reserve Forces and Cadets Association (East Midlands RFCA).

The ceremony was attended by Chief of Defence People (CDP), Lieutenant General Richard Nugee CB CVO CBE, who commented: “I am delighted to see these institutions from the East Midlands higher education sector reaffirming their Armed Forces Covenant commitments.  In particular the commitment to encourage students to become Reservists, and paid leave for existing Reservists to undertake their annual training commitments is very welcome, and sets a potent example for peer organisations in the education sector.”                       

The universities are uniquely placed to support the education and training of the Armed Forces community. As a group, the universities have committed to collaborate in research to the benefit of the Armed Forces community in areas such as social care, sports science and the justice system. They will also consider how they can improve and facilitate access to higher education for service leavers, Reserves and military families. 

Some further specific pledges include appointing an Armed Forces Champion, and registering with the Career Transition Partnership to establish a specific pathway to employment for service leavers. They also plan to provide work placement opportunities and supporting the accreditation of military training. The support will extend to helping service spouses and partners to find jobs, through initiatives such as registering with the Forces Families Jobs Employment platform.

There are also currently over 250 Officer Cadet Students in the Officer Training Corps across the East Midlands universities, and this will continue to be supported.

The ceremony was particularly significant here at the University of Leicester, as we were founded as a living memorial to those who made sacrifices in the First World War and celebrates its centenary in 2021.  Professor Nishan Canagarajah, President and Vice-Chancellor, said: “I am proud to re-sign the Armed Forces Covenant.  It is appropriate that the signing ceremony took place in our Fielding Johnson Building which served as a military hospital during the Great War.  The University of Leicester was founded as a living memorial to the sacrifices of local people during that conflict.  Our commitment to all those who serve, or have served, in the Armed Forces is part of that legacy.”

John Wilson OBE DL, Director of Employer Engagement at East Midlands RFCA, added: “We are really thrilled to have this significant group re-signing take place, demonstrating the friendly and supportive dialogue between all the East Midlands universities. The Armed Forces Covenant is there to ensure that Armed Forces personnel are not disadvantaged by the commitment they make to their defence careers, and respected bodies like the universities can lead by example and best practice.”

Also in attendance were:

  • Colonel Murray Colville, Vice Lord-Lieutenant of Leicestershire
  • Group Captain (Rtd) Nick Sharpe, Chief Executive, East Midlands RFCA
  • Katy Nevitt, Armed Forces Lead, Bishop Grosseteste University
  • Dr Simon Oldroyd, Interim Deputy Vice-Chancellor, De Montfort University
  • Dr Paula Holt, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, University of Derby
  • Julian Free, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Lincoln
  • Chris Euden, Operations Director, Loughborough University
  • Professor Nick Petford, Vice-Chancellor, University of Northampton
  • Jamie Tennant, Head of Employment Shared Services, University of Nottingham
  • Professor Mark Biggs, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Nottingham Trent University.

The Armed Forces Covenant was enshrined legally in the Armed Forces Act 2011 as a promise from the nation that its Armed Forces personnel will be treated fairly.  The Covenant can be signed by any and all UK businesses interested in showing their support for defence personnel.