NNECL was commissioned by the Office for Students (OfS) in late 2020 to undertake a feasibility study on the potential to develop a more consistent approach to support for care experienced students in universities and colleges. The final report is published today alongside a new OfS Insight Brief.
The NNECL study gathered views from HE providers, local authority leaving care teams, practitioners, researchers and other experts on the current range of support provided by universities and colleges to care experienced students. It identified emerging consensus around desirable components of a more consistent offer, across the following areas:
- Information, Advice and Guidance: an accessible webpage with consistent information and links to it from other key pages; a named contact who provides proactive support and advice once an applicant ticks the UCAS box or subsequently identifies as care experienced; the potential for Uni Connect partnerships to provide high quality, accessible and impartial advice to potential applicants and to co-ordinate targeted outreach.
- Admissions: the importance of taking a rounded view of applicants, with contextualised offers made, where appropriate; ensuring a smooth transition to HE, with opportunities for early induction and welcome events.
- Finance: providing access to some additional funding support, whether this is a specific bursary or priority access to funding for all disadvantaged students; advice on budgeting and managing finances; structuring the timing of payments to reflect times of greatest need (including at the beginning of the academic year and a late summer payment); providing additional funding support for study visits and enrichment activities; offering paid employment as a student ambassador; providing support for graduation costs.
- Pastoral: providing a designated contact throughout the student lifecycle; giving priority access to institutional support services including well-being/mental health provision; opportunities for mentoring or peer support; enhanced careers guidance which continues for a period of time after graduation.
- Accommodation: year-round accommodation provided by institutions with their own residences; other universities and colleges to provide support in finding suitable accommodation; ensuring, as far as possible, that individual student needs are taken into account when sourcing accommodation; practical assistance with moving; providing emergency accommodation.
Patricia Ambrose, NNECL Director and one of the study authors, commented,
Our study highlights many positive examples of the work already in place across the sector to support care experienced students. While there are variations in what is offered, given the diversity of providers, numbers of students and the resources available within individual institutions, there is evidence of strong commitment to move towards a more consistent offer. Our report recommends a second phase of work to test these elements further via projects involving consortia of HE providers and other partners.
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