care experienced

Care experienced students

Information about higher education support for students who are care experienced.



Who is a ‘care experienced’ student?

A care experienced student refers to anyone who has been, or is currently, in care. This care may have been provided in many different settings, including: living with foster carers; living in a residential children’s home; being looked after at home under a supervision order or living with friends or relatives in kinship care.

A care leaver is a young person aged 16-25 years old who has been ‘looked after’ at some point since they were 14 years old, and were in care on or after their 16th birthday.


Applying to do a degree at college or university

UCAS support

If you are in care, or have experience of being in care in the past, there’s lots of support available in higher education to help you with all aspects of applying to university including support on finance, accommodation, and settling. UCAS has a wealth of information which you can access via the link below:


Tick the Box

As a care experienced student applying to study a degree via UCAS,  there is an option to ‘tick a box’ to let universities know that you/ a student is care experienced.

UCAS has produced an informative blog giving students three clear reasons why ticking the box is helpful. Click the box below to read the article.

There is more information about the Tick the Box campaign on the websites of The Fostering Network and Propel.

Student finance (for a degree)

When applying to university, many students are worried about managing their money – and for students from a care background, this may seem like a particular challenge. Care experienced students can apply for full support from Student Finance England without providing any information about their household income. You will receive loans to cover your tuition fees (up to £9,250 per year) and maintenance e.g. rent, bills, food etc (£12,667 for courses in London, £9,706 for courses outside London).

In addition, you may be eligible for further financial help as a care experienced student, such as:

  • A Higher Education Bursary, which you don’t pay back – see ‘Local Authority support’ at the bottom of this page for information about the offer from each region.
  • Bursaries from the university or college: Many universities and colleges offer bursaries for care experienced students that you don’t have to repay, and some offer grants or loans to help you manage any additional expenses (e.g. specialist equipment). Speak to the university or college directly, or check the Propel website.
  • Charitable organisations: There are a number of organisations offering grants, bursaries and scholarships, including Unite FoundationButtle UK, and the Care Leavers’ Foundation.

Student finance (for an apprenticeship)

As with concerns over applying to university the same applies to apprenticeships and again there is plenty of support available if you know where to look. There may be eligibility criteria to meet and we have given some links below:

  • A Higher Education Bursary, as above and which you don’t pay back – see ‘Local Authority support’ at the bottom of this page for information about the offer from each region.
  • Apprenticeships Care Leavers’ Bursaryis for care leaver apprentices up to age 24 (inc.) and is a bursary throughout your first year of £3000 to support students with the costs of starting an apprenticeship.

IMPORTANT: Many students do not like to declare their care status and if this is the case it falls to the support worker to record a specific code on their young persons ILR (individual learning record). This will then highlight the young persons status and activate the bursary, by the training provider.

Student Finance for care leavers who are the responsibility of the local authority but live with their parents.

Until recently it has not been easy for care leavers under local authority care BUT living with parents to apply for finance and for students applying for finance for the 2022/23 academic year (which will launch in February/March 2022), it is important that these applicants upload this letter as part of their application.

The letter will ensure that applications are routed to the Student Loan Company (SLC), Independent Team, and the applicant is then assessed as a care leaver.

Leathersellers’ Foundation Undergraduate Student Grant Programme

The Leathersellers’ Undergraduate Student Grant Programme aims to support care leavers intending to study an undergraduate degree at a UK university. Grants of up to £5,000 for 4 years are available to care leavers (defined as anyone who was the subject of a care order in the UK before they were 18), whose financial situation may hinder them from pursuing their undergraduate studies.

For more information and detail on how to apply please click here.

Support available for care leavers offered by some local higher education institutions (HEIs):

The table illustrates some of the support available at a few institutions but is not necessarily their complete package. Therefore we suggest you check with the individual institutions to obtain details of their full support package.

Support Offered Oxford Brookes University University of Oxford Buckinghamshire New University University of Reading
Application support ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Specific outreach programmes ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Open day travel expenses ✔️ ✔️
Contextual admissions ✔️ ✔️
Care leavers bursary &/or other funding ✔️ [plus free bedding, kitchen pack, and moving costs] ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Scholarship ✔️
Priority 52 week accommodation ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Individual institute support/memberships NNECL Buttle Quality Mark UNITE Foundation Scholarship scheme

Reading scholars yr12 course

Student ambassador interview ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Mentoring/support named contact ✔️ ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Care experienced student network ✔️ ✔️ ✔️
Study strategy meetings ✔️ ✔️ [personal tutoring system]
Career consultant meetings ✔️ ✔️
Support with graduation cost/pack ✔️ ✔️
HEI support page links Oxford Brookes University University of Oxford Bucks New University University of Reading

Table correct as of September 2023.

Care leavers guide to university 2022/23

Foster Talk have published their university 2022/23 guide which has a students’ personal story and information about the support available at some universities beyond that of our partners above.

Download a copy by clicking the button below.


Apprenticeship information

The Apprenticeship Guide for Care Experienced Young People aims to provide all the information a young person with care experience needs to know to consider apprenticeships as their next step.

This resource has been produced by Amazing Apprenticeships and covers the benefits of apprenticeships, how to apply, the all-important added financial and practical support available for apprentices with care experience and much more.

It might be helpful to know that, once you have commenced your apprenticeship, there is a support network which might be helpful to join. The Association of apprentices is a not-for-profit support group for all apprentices, not just those with care experience, once the training has begun started.

You can access the Apprenticeship Guide for Care Experienced Young People from the link below:

Local Authority (LA) support

Local councils are often able to support care leavers in a number of different ways. The links for each local council support plan, in our regions, can be accessed by clicking on each name in bold below:

Berkshire is covered by the following: West Berkshire, Windsor and Maidenhead, Wokingham, Bracknell Forest, Reading and Slough.

Buckinghamshire Council

Oxfordshire County Council

Swindon Borough Council

EaCES handbook

Estranged and Care Experienced Students (EaCES) have created a webpage and handbook to summarise all of the advice and information they have collated about support for students in similar situations to themselves about higher and further education and to allow their own lived experiences and stories to be shared.

Within the EaCES Handbook you can find support and Advice on:

The Basics: applying to Uni, definitions, emergency help, support and student finance guides.
Practical Support: accommodation, careers and mentoring, LGBTQ, mature and PHD, privacy and disabilities.
Finances and Employment: benefits, free stuff, grants and scholarships, student finance guides, employment rights
Relationships: becoming estranged, domestic abuse, healthy relationships, sex education and support with family matters.
Taking Care of Yourself: bereavement, life skills, mental health and wellbeing, self confidence, unlearning unhealthy behaviors and sex and relationship education.
Community and Activism: academic research, activism, claiming your history and culture, creative corner, meeting up and lived stories and experiences.

To view the EaCAS Handbook, click the button below.

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