This blog is part of the series featuring ideas contained in the new HEPI-Brightside report, Reaching the parts of society universities have missed: A manifesto for the new Director for Fair Access and Participation. It showcases the idea from Emily Hughes, Access and Support Manager at KU Cares (Kingston University).
Meeting the needs of care-experienced and other vulnerable groups should be explicitly included as a priority within guidance from the Office for Students. We would recommend that all institutions are required to include a target to improve the access, success or progression of care experienced students. We believe that this would demonstrate a real commitment to ensuring a significant change in the educational and life outcomes of this marginalised group.
We know that care-experienced students generally take longer to complete their degree due to external factors linked to their care status. At present, there is no acknowledgment or understanding from Student Finance England regarding this. We believe the resulting financial difficulties are a contributing factor to the high attrition rate among these learners. So the Office for Students should use its influence to ensure that care-experienced students are not financially disadvantaged if they have to take a break from study or repeat multiple times due to mitigating circumstances.
A significant proportion of our care-experienced students require intensive and sustained wellbeing services. If we aim to increase the proportion of care-experienced learners into and through higher education, it is vital that institutions are encouraged to provide adequate mental health and wellbeing services.