Supporting students from Care Experienced backgrounds – our wholistic approach

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Last week’s HEPI blog highlighted the recent Unite Foundation and UCAS ‘Next Steps Report’, which highlights potential and ambition of young people leaving care, together with the challenges they can face when exploring university options. It provided a helpful opportunity for reflection on our support offering here at Bath, and what we feel makes it unique…

An underpinning principle for our approach is ensuring a care-experienced student feels supported at every stage of their journey, from their first steps towards considering HE, to the point of graduation and beyond. Here, we outline our wholistic approach at each stage of the student journey.

Collaborative Outreach

We’re proud to be leading a joined-up approach to outreach, working closely with a group of other HEIs across the region, together with Virtual School colleagues, to co-deliver a suite of in-person events for looked-after children from KS3 upwards, as well as E-Mentoring with current students as mentors who share lived experiences of the care system. This approach facilitates a lively community of practitioners coming together to share experiences, opportunities and best practice, as well as enabling students from across the area to gather with peers and role models to exchange stories, tips and motivation.

A Virtual School staff attendee at our recent event hosted at UWE commented,

‘I think it has solidified for some their desire to go to uni and has them thinking about it in a clearer way. One of our young people who has been oscillating about going for the past two years now feels she definitely wants to do it. Thanks again to the student ambassadors who were very helpful.’

Supporting Applications

We know that one of the barriers for students can be the application process, both in terms of confidence, as well as the logistics of accessing help and support. We aim to mitigate this barrier as far as possible, offering students 1:1 and group application support to facilitate them making the strongest application possible, as well as tackling the structural barrier of differential academic attainment through being the first university in England to offer guaranteed offers for care-leaving students.

We also understand that it’s not just about the mechanics of UCAS though, so provide lots of opportunities to visit the campus and meet current students through our outreach programmes (for which self-declared care-experience is an automatic qualifying criteria), student-curated webpages, and new for 2023, care-experienced applicant webinars. We aim to meet young people where they are, offering a variety of flexible ways for them to engage and feel welcomed into the Bath community.

Successful Transitions

In line with recent recommendations, we’ve long offered 1:1 advisor support to all care-experienced students, alongside various scholarships and bursaries, believing that a combination of financial and bespoke non-financial support is critical to student success. At Bath, students begin working with dedicated advisors from the moment they receive their offer. This enables us to signpost students to the relevant services across every aspect of student life (including disability, money-management, skills development amongst others), as well as ensuring access to the practical support needed for what represents a significant life milestone, including a care-leaver bursary to support with moving and university accommodation set-up costs.

Personalised Support & Opportunities

We understand that every student journey is unique, and the support which is helpful to care-experienced and care-leaving students can vary hugely. For this reason, we advocate an individualised approach, managed by a consistent 1:1 advisor contact, who can broker connections across all university student services. These teams also then offer a more personalised approach for students from care backgrounds, for example, our Careers Service offer a named-advisor model, our student success team host regular student discussion groups to bring together those with shared lived experiences, and students from care backgrounds are prioritised for areas such as our Gold Scholarship, student money advice, wellbeing support, and guaranteed 365-day accommodation.

Support doesn’t end with graduation either – care-leaving students are provided with a bursary to assist their transition into post-graduate employment or study, as well as continued access to the supportive university community, through careers and alumni teams. Our outcomes for care-experienced and care-leaving students are positive, , and we believe that in combination with their incredible talent, ambition and determination, this is supported by our wholistic lifecycle approach to supporting them to reach their potential.

Recent graduate, Amber, who is looking forward to her future career following a research placement at the university says,

‘I wanted to share my story so that you know just how much care and support there is at Bath. I had no idea when I applied. I’ve had an amazing time and will leave with a great degree, a strong CV, great friends and so many experiences!’

Her blog exemplifies the richness of university experience we fundamentally believe care-experienced students deserve, and which we’re committed to offering here at Bath.




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