Applicants who contact the named member of staff are provided with support with both their UCAS application, and student finance application. However, this offer is not well known, so we will ensure it is better publicized, and more accessible. In addition, we will proactively contact applicants to inform them of the additional support available if they are care-experienced.
For students at SOAS, there is a named member of staff – based in the Access, Participation & Student Success team – who contacts care-experienced students shortly after enrolment in order to establish a relationship that continues during their studies. This is possible due to the addition of a question regarding experience of care into the online enrolment process, which enables proactive contacting from enrolment onwards.
As part of this initial conversation, students are introduced to the availability of personalized support from our Finance Advisers – and a process has also been developed so that if students disclose experience of care directly to the Finance Advisers (having not done so during enrolment), they are referred to the named contact.
Similarly, students are introduced to the availability of personalized support from our Housing Adviser, who – like the Finance Advisers – prioritises work with care-experienced students as a matter of course. Although we do not own any Halls of Residence, we currently offer the possibility of 51 week accommodation in our contracted Halls of Residence and will aim to provide 365-day accommodation as a matter of priority.
In addition, care leavers are a priority group for the SOAS Bursary, which consists of £1500 a year. We have also changed the payment schedule of the bursary from 2 to 3 payments across the year (the last of which is in May) to help with budgeting and planning for the summer period. If there is any underspend in the bursary budget, this is used for additional summer payments to care-leaver recipients of the bursary. Although the bursary is prioritized for care-leavers rather than all students with experience of care, we aim to move to the latter so that there is consistency in definitions across the support that SOAS provides.
Students with experience of care are also prioritized for support through the Hardship funds available at SOAS.
We also aim to implement welcome packs for care-experienced students moving into halls of residence to help support the transition into university, as well as providing targeted social events during university holidays.
Currently, students with experience of care are prioritized for specific schemes offered by the Careers Service, such as the Santander Internships Scheme.
We commit to forming a Care-Experienced Working Group with representation from care-experienced students, and the Students’ Union to better understand needs of care-experienced students at SOAS and to ensure that process, practice and the student experience continues to improve.
2. A Robust Employment Offer
Currently, as part of the application process for the paid position of Student Ambassador, we ask applicants to disclose if they have experience of care (on the basis that some of the outreach activities we run are accessed by young people in or with experience of being in care). If so, this is positively considered as part of a holistic appraisal of the application process.
We commit to exploring with our Human Resources department ways in which employment at SOAS can be made more accessible for those with experience of care; including the possibility of a paid internship with the APSS Team after graduation for care-experienced SOAS graduates.
Currently, our engagement with care-leavers in the community is primarily through our access-focussed outreach. In collaboration with other organisations, such as Aimhigher London, we have in recent years been part of outreach activities specifically targeted at school and college learners in care. In addition, for all our outreach activities, we ensure that any applicants with experience of care are prioritized when allocating places.
When requested, we provide free event space for care-leaver focused charities, and will work proactively with our local borough councils (including virtual schools) and other community organisations to ensure this opportunity is better known (post-Covid).
We have built some links with virtual schools in London boroughs, and will aim to do so increasingly closely, particularly with Camden, Islington and Westminster as our local boroughs, to ensure that we better serve the local care-experienced community.
We are also in the initial planning stages of developing a summer school specifically for care-experienced Year 12s, in collaboration with our Foundation Year team. During the process of development, we will reach out to virtual schools, community groups, and care-experienced students at SOAS to ensure that the summer school is fit for purpose.