Set against best practice as detailed in the DfE’s Principles for Supporting Care Leavers in HE, the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) is committed to supporting care leavers and to improving the retention and achievement of this group of students. In our support offer we are mindful of the government figures of only 6% of care leavers going to University and the findings of the research commissioned by NNECL ‘Moving On Up’ which identified care leavers were 38% more likely than other groups of students to withdraw from their course and not return to higher education.
Beyond this specific definition we welcome applications from self-identified care-experienced applicants and students which are considered on an individual basis.
Support currently offered by UCA includes:
Pre-Entry Support (Outreach)
UCA has relationships with schools and further and higher education providers, offering outreach and recruitment work. We engage with applicants across the UK to make potential students aware of our support offer to care leavers.
From early Spring 2021, UCA will be one of three HEIs supporting a longer-term initiative with Access HE and Creative Futures, to create a sustained programme for care leavers. The programme will enhance our current offer by supporting individuals with skills such as independent living, study skills, goal setting, self-confidence, leadership and building personal networks through creative projects. The programme will also include elements of IAG about participating in higher education, including visiting a campus and having a student experience. It will cover the specific support available to care leavers including finance and application support.
UCA collaborates with Canterbury Christ Church University on an annual Easter School designated specifically for care leavers.
Pre-Entry Support (applicant stage)
‘Meet and Greet’ service at Open Days with the Designated Member of Staff (DMS) or for 1-2-1 visits to the applicant’s campus of choice. Support during interviews is also available if required.
The DMS makes contact with all students who have declared themselves to be a Care Leaver prior to the start of the course to offer support and impartial advice on funding, money management and accommodation and acts as a primary point of contact for any questions or concerns. With the student’s permission, the DMS will liaise with the Local Authority to ensure a smooth transition.
Through the DMS, referrals can be made to other support services such as the Disability & Specific Learning Differences (SpLD) Support Team where appropriate.
For Further Education students, support can be given with university and student finance applications
On Course Support (student stage)
Designated Member of staff
Specialist advice on: welfare; money management; student finance; additional funding sources; accommodation and academic issues.
Where permission has been given by the student, the DMS will monitor progress and achievements to ensure that timely help and advice is provided through liaison with academic staff and Course Administrators.
The DMS is also available to help with referral to external support services, for example the Care Leavers Foundation, Become and the Drive Forward Foundation.
Where appropriate, and in cases where permission has been given, the DMS will liaise with Social Services or other statutory bodies on behalf of the student to ensure a holistic package of support. The DMS is also able to work with external supporters, including local authority representatives to ensure students achieve their full potential whilst at University.
Care Leaver bursary scheme which pays each eligible student £1,000 per year of undergraduate study.
Care leavers are a priority group for the University’s discretionary hardship funds.
Care leavers are a priority for our accommodation service in both the first and later years of their course. Should a young person require it, UCA provides 365 accommodation, although at times this may be subject to availability. In a scenario in which a care leaver chooses to live off-campus, we would work with them to find accommodation locally. We maintain an emergency room on all four of our campuses for use in the event of somebody needing accommodation urgently. We use these facilities while we work with students to find them more long-term accommodation. Between Accommodation and Gateway Services we support our care leavers to move on from University accommodation when they’ve completed their studies.
The range of on-course and post-course support offered by the University is offered to all students. In the case of care leavers specifically, we would seek their permission to refer them for targeted support from the following services: Careers & Employability, Counselling & Wellbeing services, Disability & SpLD and academic support.
End of course
In addition to advice available during a student’s time at UCA which helps with finding paid work alongside study, referral to the Careers & Employability Service for progression advice and support after graduation, for example help with finding jobs and internships, advice on all aspects of job applications and guidance on pursuing chosen career routes is available. The DMS remains involved at this stage, supporting individual students with transition from university to the world of work, providing critical friendship for job applications or negotiating for input with interview technique, for example.
UCA regularly reviews its provision for vulnerable young people to ensure information is relevant and current. This includes information published on UCA’s website and external websites such as Propel.
UCA contributes to local and national networks (NNECL, AccessHE and the Care Leavers Progression Partnership in Kent) to share best practice and improve the support offered to our care leavers.
Activity under consideration
UCA will review the following and update the enhanced offer in due course:
- Membership of NNECL and a commitment to signing up to the NNECL quality mark framework in 2021;
- The incorporation of care leavers as a priority group in admissions policies and the use of contextual admissions for this group;
- A guarantor scheme for care leavers seeking private rented accommodation;
- The provision of a starter pack for students moving into halls (e.g. towels, bedding, kitchen items);
- A buddy scheme whereby care leavers who are continuing students would become buddies to new students: the buddies would be available to help new students move into their accommodation and to settle in, providing ongoing support if required which in turn could lead to the establishment of a peer support group for care leavers.
- Consideration of the establishment of a peer support group for care leavers which has been identified by young people as important in the research carried out by the Centre for Social Justice and detailed in the 12BY24 report;
- The provision of a bursary to help with accommodation and/or course costs. Better financial support at University is another of the things highlighted by the research carried out by the CSJ as being important for supporting care leavers;
- The provision of a bursary to help cover the costs of attending the graduation ceremony;
- A review of the information provided on the website and a link from the home page;
- Increased staff awareness training;
- A commitment to consulting care leavers about the support they have received and how it could be improved.
2. A Robust Employment Offer
All care leavers will be offered an interview for Student Shelver jobs if they wish to pursue that opportunity. These jobs are for fixed periods of one academic year (32 weeks) and are paid at a rate of £9.06/hour for approximately six hours/ week.
The University is participating in a pilot project with the Drive Forward Foundation – UCA can refer care leavers to Drive Forward, a charity supporting care leavers into employment.
As an example, to mark annual National Care Leavers Week, we offer a dedicated employment webinar with one of our Careers & Employability advisers and our team of Specialist Advisers on how UCA supports care leavers on their journey to graduation and beyond.
As a creative specialist institution, we have strong links with sector employers and many of our courses feature contributions from practitioners as well as opportunities for work experience placement. All students benefit from UCA’s sector context but in the case of care leavers, the opportunity to be involved with employers for example may afford chances that those with established family connections may take for granted.
Activity under consideration
In addition to opportunities in the University’s libraries for care experienced students, we are currently in the process of agreeing a guaranteed interview for Student Ambassador roles for this group of our community. Ambassadors typically work on projects such as Open Days and Applicant Days, Meet & Greet, Induction & Orientation and are paid at the rate of £9.06/hour.
We have relationships with health care providers, for example on-campus sexual healthcare team visits, which we publicise to all students. Where an appointment system is operated, care-experienced students are prioritised for appointments.
Activity under consideration
Strengthening links with our local communities is area that the University needs to focus on going forward.