Care experienced people comprise one of the most under-represented groups within higher education.  Here are some key facts and figures based on an analysis of HESA data from the 2020 Positive Impact research report.  

  • Care experienced students and graduates are more likely to be women, older, disabled, of Black, Mixed or other Asian ethnicity, and holding a nationality other than British. They are notably less likely to have an Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi ethnicity.
  • Care experienced graduates are more likely to have lower and non-traditional entry qualifications and to have entered their last course from a sub-degree course (e.g. a foundation degree or diploma). They are also more likely to have just graduated from a sub-degree course and less likely to have studied at a higher tariff university. 
  • Care experienced graduates are over-represented in social sciences, computer science/technology, law/business/communications and creative arts, but notably under-represented in natural sciences, mathematics/ engineering/construction, languages/history/philosophy.
  • They are less likely to get a first or upper second class degree than others. In part, this is related to the fact that they are more likely to be pursuing non-degree courses that are not graded in this way. However, even once entry qualifications are taken into account, care experienced graduates are less likely than other graduates to have secured a first or upper second.
  • Based on the Destinations of Leavers in Higher Education (DLHE) survey data from 2017, 68.1% of care experienced degree graduates were in some form of work (or waiting to start), compared to 72.5% for other degree graduates. The main basis of this difference was that care experienced degree graduates were somewhat less likely to be in full-time work. 
  • Conversely, 27.9% of care experienced degree graduates were undertaking further full-time or part-time study, compared to 24.6% of other graduates. 
  • Care experienced degree graduates were somewhat more likely to be unemployed than other graduates (5.5%, compared to 4.4%) and engaged in ‘other’ activities (5.7%, compared to 4.4%) which included caring, travelling and long-term sickness.

Data on the participation of care experienced people in higher education from around the UK:

  • England: Department for Education Widening Participation in Higher Education 2022 data: 13% of pupils who were looked after continuously for 12 months or more at 31st March 2017 progressed to HE by age 19 by 2020/21 compared to 45% of all other pupils. The progression rate for care experienced young people is unchanged from the previous year while the overall progression rate has increased from 43% to 45%.
  • Scotland: Scottish Funding Council Report on Widening Access 2020-21: in 2020-21, 1.9% of Scottish-domiciled entrants to undergraduate courses at Scotland’s colleges and universities were care-experienced. That’s up from 1.7% in 2018-19 and represents an increase of 215 students.  In 2020-21, 1.5% of Scottish-domiciled full-time first-degree entrants were care experienced. That represents 485 entrants, up 105 from the 2019-20 figure.  In the college sector, 3.6% of enrolments to full-time HE and 9.6% of enrolments to full-time FE courses in 2020-21 were from care-experienced students. That’s up from 3.5% (full-time HE) and 8.7% (full-time FE) in 2019-20.
  • Wales: no current public data are available on the participation of care experienced people in HE, but the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales has included care experienced students as one of the priority groups in its Reaching Wider initiative.
  • Northern Ireland: National Statistics Northern Ireland Care Leavers 2020/21 report: of the 218 care leavers aged 19 in 2020/21, whose economic activity was known, 70 (32%) were in full or part-time education (25% in 2019/20).  Of those care leavers in education, 19 were in higher education (24 in 2019/20).  
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