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A life-changing scholarship for care leavers and estranged students

  • 29 June 2022
  • By Nyomi Rose

This blog was kindly contributed by Nyomi Rose. Nyomi is currently studying Applied Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics at the University of Bradford. She also runs her own successful social media and events consultancy. 

Nyomi contributed this blog as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations of the Unite Foundation and research into how addressing housing fragility is making a significant difference to retention and completion for care leavers. Nyomi is a former recipient of Unite Foundation’s scholarship and has recently been appointed to Unite Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

Unite Foundation offers year-round accommodation scholarships to care leaver and estranged students. As an estranged student myself, this form of support was life-changing and enabled me to fulfil my dream of attending university. 

I had always aspired to go on to higher or further education – I saw it as a gateway to a brighter future. However, when I spoke to an advisor at my college, they said: ‘But you don’t live with your parents, how do you think you can ever get to university?’ After that, it didn’t feel like an option for me and I stopped considering it. 

However, things changed when my aunty sent me a link to the Unite Foundation scholarship. After the negativity I’d faced from my college advisor, I couldn’t get my head around the fact that this was a possibility, that someone might pay for a place for me to live whilst I was at uni. But I applied for the scholarship and was successful, and, as a result, I was able to accept a place at Manchester Met to study Events Management.

Being on the scholarship meant that I had a safe and secure home. My first year of uni was very challenging, but the fact that I had a home gave me freedom and created, in a very real ways, the boundaries I needed at that time.

For any care experienced or estranged student, the importance of a stable home at university cannot be overstated. To have your housing taken care of in this way, it’s like someone waving a magic wand. When thinking about uni for care experienced and estranged students, the housing barrier can be too high, meaning many decide not to go. 

Beyond providing housing, Unite Foundation were like guardian angels: they had my back. When I had problems at university, I could ask them to help, meaning I didn’t have to navigate complicated uni wellbeing systems. The support I received from Unite Foundation gave me the space to trust myself and it allowed me to be more open. Before the scholarship I hadn’t been able to talk about being estranged, but now I wear it as a badge of honour, and I can help make a difference for other students.

I would love to see more education at sixth form level for career advisors and teachers about how to enable students to follow their dreams, ensuring that teachers and advisors can signpost students in the right way to the support that is out there. 

At the moment, however, not everyone is able to access the support they need. I hope that university leaders do more to think about the kind of support they offer to care experienced and estranged students. I’d really encourage Vice Chancellors to get out from behind their desks and come and meet their students. Especially students who are care experienced and estranged – let us educate you!

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