This guest blog has been kindly written for HEPI by Professor Wendy Thomson CBE, Vice-Chancellor of the University of London.
Starting university can be daunting.
Even more so for those who face additional barriers to accessing higher education. For students who are care experienced or are estranged from their families, there’s more to consider than just getting the right grades – access to the right support, both practical and emotional, is key to making the best plans for their future.
A vital part of this is access to stable, safe and full-year accommodation. Having a secure home provides a sense of security, community and support that cannot be underestimated, especially for students who have lived in care or are estranged from their family.
We know that students who are care leavers are less likely to continue into the second year of their course. The Office for Students found that the continuation rate of care leavers was 5.6 percentage points lower than that for students who have not been in care. It is a similar parallel for the percentage of students graduating with ‘good’ degrees, that is achieving a First or 2:1.
Providing a home at university for care experienced and estranged students create a solid foundation for experiencing all the great things higher education has to offer. In their ten-year review, the Unite Foundation found that students who received a Unite Foundation scholarship progressed from their first to the second year of university at the same percentage as non-care leavers. The same report also revealed that care leaver students who had guaranteed accommodation throughout their degrees, graduate with similar degree classifications as those who were non-care leavers.
Care experienced and estranged students are already hugely underrepresented in higher education – according to the Office for Students, ‘In 2018-19 only 13 per cent of pupils who were looked after continuously for 12 months or more entered higher education by age 19, compared with 43 per cent of all other pupils.’ This should not be the case. Universities have a responsibility to give students the right support so they can reach their full potential.
This is why I’m so delighted to be able to announce our forthcoming partnership with the Unite Foundation and The Portal Trust to enable students from disadvantaged backgrounds to attend the University of London. This agreement will enable us to support three years’ worth of scholarships for care leaver or those estranged from their families in our halls of residence. This will bolster the University of London Scholars programme, adding a further £185,000 over the next three years.
We currently have nine care-experienced or estranged students in our halls who are being supported by this programme, and this latest partnership will allow us to give this opportunity to another 12 each year. All the students will be able to live onsite all year round, providing them with essential security at a time when they need it most. They will also receive support towards food, heating, and other costs. These are small steps, but vital ones to support those who do not have as many options and opportunities open to them as some.
Hopefully, this added support will encourage more people to dive headfirst into the transformative world of education and make the most of every opportunity it can deliver.
Explore our other blogs on care leavers and estranged students:
- The Unite Foundation and Paige Mackenzie, Hello … Are you there? Or have you gone home for Christmas?, 23 December 2022
- Lisa, Global Law student and Unite Foundation scholarship recipient, ‘Why every university needs an advisor for care leavers and estranged students’, 5 December 2022
- Buttle UK, ‘Choosing between earning and learning: a new report on the experiences of estranged students in higher education’, 22 November 2022
- Unite Foundation’s Ira Hakim and a group of students and recent graduates who are care experienced and/ or estranged from their families, ‘Community – a lifeline for care experienced and estranged students’, 25 October 2022
- Fiona Ellison, ‘Supporting care leavers and estranged students in higher education’, 11 October 2022
- Nyomi Rose, ‘A life-changing scholarship for care leavers and estranged students’, 29 June 2022
Other HEPI publications on care leavers and estranged students:
- Sasha Roseneil, ‘Postcodes or personal experience? How best to encourage members of under-represented groups to apply to university’, 23 September 2022
- Fiona Ellison, ‘Creating an inclusive and sustainable future for estranged and care experienced university students’, 26 November 2021
- Eluned Parrott, ‘How the shutdown of the student economy is hitting the finances, health and educational prospects of care leavers and estranged students’, 11 May 2020
- Eluned Parrott, ‘Study from home? What if you don’t have a home?’, 18 March 2020
- Steven Spier, ‘Supporting students leaving care’, 10 May 2019
- Chloë Cockett, ‘New Insights on WP: Care leavers and their paths to higher education’, 18 August 2017