YOUNG people brought up in the care system are much less likely to move into Higher Education. The University of Huddersfield has vowed to help redress the balance. It works closely with local authorities, social workers and foster carers to encourage care leavers to apply for degree courses and provides special support that includes bursaries and mentoring.
Now, the success of the policy has been celebrated at a dinner for newly-graduated care leavers. Among those present was the University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Bob Cryan. Deeply committed to the policy, he personally acts as mentor to three students who have left care.
The Universities Minister and the Office for Students have expressed concern about the under-representation of care leavers in Higher Education. Just six per cent of 19-21 year olds with experience of the care system will attend university compared to almost 50 per cent of the general population. And those that do enter Higher Education are nearly twice as likely to drop out.
Problems facing care leavers include a lack of advice when choosing universities and courses; problems with accommodation; anxieties about finances; additional academic difficulties due to disrupted schooling experiences; difficult childhood experiences and a lack of support.
The University of Huddersfield’s strategy to remove barriers faced by care leavers include special academic mentoring, careers coaching from business and industry professionals and financial support that includes a care leaver bursary, help with study costs such as laptops, software and books and with the costs of graduation such as gown hire.
Also, the University has employees whose role includes providing support. Ruth Lomas, from Schools and Colleges Liaison, is the pre-application contact for care leavers, and Rebecca Hayes, from the Wellbeing Team, supports care leavers from application to post-graduation.
“We are proud of the support we offer to our care experienced students and are committed to providing a warm welcome and as much help as possible to them in order to ensure their future success,” said Rebecca.
Anyone seeking more information about the support that the University offers care leaver students are welcome to contact Rebecca Hayes by email on email@example.com.
Nicholas Stavris was the first recipient of the University’s Lemn Sissay Scholarship to complete his doctorate. Lemn is a leading poet and playwright, and a care leaver himself.
“I have benefited enormously from the support available, which included one-to-one advice regarding the future of my studies. In particular, it is because of the amazing work that is being done by Rebecca Hayes that my postgraduate studies are continuing,” said Nicholas.
“Support for care-leavers at the University of Huddersfield extends as far as organising social events for students who may not have the benefit of large social circles or strong family dynamics in their lives. This has included free trips to watch Huddersfield Town Football Club, as well as nights out in town,” he added.
“Having been at the institution throughout my undergraduate studies, through to my postgraduate education, it is clear to see the fantastic work that is being done to ensure that students from cared-for backgrounds are being given the support that they often need.”
Luke Hebblethwaite graduated this year with first class honours degree in history. “As someone in care, I was concerned about the prospects of my future, because I felt that if I decided to go to university, immediately I would be disadvantaged compared to other students because of my background,” he said.
“However, the University of Huddersfield has provided me with much needed academic, financial and personal support through my years of study. All the staff at the University have been incredibly supportive and I would not be getting the grades that I am getting without them.”
Vicki Ferdinando, who also achieved a first in her Masters course in pharmacy, said: “The University has offered a great deal of support to me as a care leaver in the form of a bursary and provision of essential textbooks to support my learning. More importantly they have been able to offer emotional support when I was struggling to keep up with my studies and they are always available for a chat or to offer advice. Knowing that they are there to help me and others like me has been very beneficial throughout my four years of study.”