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ELC: the basics

ELC: the basics


27 Apr, 2020

All you need to know before you get started …

How does it work?

There are several stages to the ELC process. Full details are set out in Joint Service Publication 822 (JSP 822), which can be downloaded from the ELCAS website.

You must be a registered scheme member and have accrued sufficient service before submitting a claim. If you are still serving, speak to your local education staff. If you have already left the Forces contact your Single Service Representative (SSR) (click here for details). Appropriate checks can then be done before you are issued an online account. Note that you may access your member account only if you have been sent an email to confirm the logon email and password provided by your appropriate MoD authorising personnel. Again, all out-of-Service personnel should contact their respective SSR.

Once your member account is set up, log on to the ELCAS website to search for an Approved Provider and course. Once you have found an approved course you would like to apply for, simply log in and submit your claim.

Important: At the end of your chosen course, you must complete a course evaluation when requested, as further claims cannot be processed until any previous course evaluation has been completed.


Any ELC claimants who are attending courses or intending to do so are requested to comply with current government guidance. If a learner must self-isolate, then all efforts will be made to offer an alternative option, but you must ensure you notify your appropriate MoD authorised personnel. In such cases it is recommended you refer to the cancellation and reinstatement guidance found on the ELCAS FAQs page.

What kind of course can you take?

Subject to certain eligibility criteria (read about these below), the ELC scheme offers currently serving or former Service personnel access to a first full level 3 (GCE A-level or vocational equivalent), or a first higher education (HE) qualification (e.g. a foundation degree or a first undergraduate degree or equivalent) free from tuition fees. Here’s the basic information you need to know …

  • The ELC lower tier offers up to three payments of up to £1,000 in three separate financial years; the higher tier offers up to three payments of up to £2,000 in three separate financial years. The three separate years do not have to run consecutively, and may be a combination of both higher and lower levels.
  • ELC may be claimed for the same learning course if it continues for more than a year, or for a different learning purpose each year.
  • If one course combines with others for a single learning purpose these can be combined to claim ELC.
  • There is also an aggregated lower-tier award, which is a single payment of up to £3,000 for those with six or more years of qualifying service, which will count as all three awards.
  • The Publicly Funded Further Education/Higher Education (PF FE/HE) scheme provides Service leavers and Service personnel in their qualifying resettlement phase with access to a first full level 3 or a first HE qualification (a foundation degree or a first undergraduate degree or equivalent) with support towards tuition fees.
  • ELC are available for full- or part-time study for a qualification at level 3 or above, as defined on National Qualifications Framework/Regulated Qualifications Framework (NQF/RQF),* or level 6 on the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF), with an organisation on the Approved Providers list maintained by ELCAS.

Examples of NQF/SCQF qualifications at level 3

  • AS and A-levels 
  • Access to Higher Education Diploma 
  • Advanced Apprenticeship 
  • NVQs at level 3
  • BTEC Diplomas, Certificates and Awards 
  • BTEC Nationals 
  • OCR Nationals

Claiming and your contribution

  • Only one ELC claim can be made in any one financial year (1 April to 31 March).
  • You must make a contribution to your learning of at least 20% of the cost (the ELC element includes VAT but excludes travel, accommodation, food, books and materials). 
  • You must discuss your plans with your line manager and education adviser before making any financial commitment.
  • You may not claim ELC for: Service training; civilian accredited Service training (unless at least 30 hours extra work is involved, together with a separate exam, assessment or assignment); membership fees; books and materials; normal Service sport and adventurous training.

What if you need to withdraw from a course?

Withdrawal once payment has been made due to foreseeable postings/Service activities will usually mean that no further claims will be allowed. However, if unexpected Service or compassionate reasons cause your withdrawal, you should seek advice from your education staff or learning adviser.

* Although the NQF has been replaced by, first, the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and subsequently the RQF, national standards and qualifications remain defined within the nine levels of the NQF, which is still referred to in JSP 822. Further details of the different qualification frameworks and levels can be found in JSP 822, downloadable here.

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