This article makes a fresh contribution to the literature on student funding and its history by drawing attention to a pioneering government initiative, launched in the aftermath of the Great War. From the winter of 1918–1919 until 1923, the Scheme for the Higher Education of Ex-Servicemen provided grants to university students in England and Wales. We argue that it amounted to a major educational reform venture: it supported students on an unprecedented scale, covering fees and maintenance across a broad range of courses and institutions. In order to produce an in-depth analysis of this scheme and its local operation, we have drawn on archival evidence from the Board of Education, the University of Liverpool, the University of Oxford and the University College of Wales, Aberystwyth. Our discussion addresses the application process, means-testing and funding decisions as well as the profiles and experiences of grant recipients. The scale and impact of the ex-service scheme raises wider questions about the societal value accorded to higher education within the context of reconstruction after the Great War.