The University of Chester works closely to support any student from a Widening Participation background. This includes our student body who are care experienced.
The University of Chester defines care experienced as any student aged 18-25 who has spent at least 3 months under the care of the Local Authority, prior to the age of 18. We offer financial support to students who meet the definition outline above, paying tuition fee of at least £6000 and are enrolled on a full-time undergraduate programme.
- The University has a dedicated Widening Participation team providing outreach activities to care experienced young people unsure of career options and for those with aspirations of attending Higher Education.
- To help improve access to higher education the Widening Participation Team have launched a Looked After Child project working with Key Stage 3 pupils. This project works closely with those looked after children who are under the care of Chester and Cheshire West Local Authority to offer mentoring support from current care experienced students. The project also includes campus visits and external visits to places of interest, such as galleries and museums.
- The University currently runs pre-entry summer schools to help break down barriers which make university inaccessible and care experienced pupils have priority access to this programme.
- The Widening Participation team currently run a Key Stage 4: Pathfinder Project aimed at targeted groups, one of which is Looked After Children.
- The Widening Participation Team have links with virtual heads and leaving care teams within the local areas.
- The University offers bespoke 1-2-1 campus visits for individuals who are care experienced and want to learn more about the University of Chester or the university experience overall.
- Care experienced applicants have access to a dedicated member of staff in the Widening Participation Team who can help with Student Finance and Personal Statement writing.
- A travel bursary is offered for any care experienced individual who wishes to attend one of the University’s open days or visit the campus.
- Bespoke campus visits and support are offered to care experienced applicants. This includes help with accessing disability and wellbeing support when term begins, as well as support to apply for the Care Experienced Support Package.
- The University of Chester has contact information on Propel and ensures that this is up to date and relevant information.
Care experienced applicants who apply via clearing are offered a call back to discuss university support
- The University is currently creating a Welcome Guide for care experienced applicants with input from current care experienced students.
- New (and returning) care experienced students are invited to attend a personalised welcome meeting with the link member of staff within Student Service. The purpose of this meeting is to identify potential barriers to success and discuss support options.
- The University is currently exploring options to support care experienced students during the move-in period.
On course support
- Care experienced students receive a financial support package which includes £1500 cash bursary and £1000 fee waiver per academic year. Students are also given priority access to the University Financial Assistance Fund.
- Students are offered university-owned accommodation for 365 days a year and are entitled to a 50% discount on university-owned accommodation. An additional stipend of £2500 per academic year for students studying at sites with no access to university-owned accommodation.
- Care experienced students have a link member of staff to support them throughout their studies. This member of staff is based in the Induction and Transition team within Student Services and can liaise with internal and external services as required.
- Care experienced students can access the University’s Peer Mentor scheme (and can request to be matched with students on the basis on care experienced background if desired) to help aid the transition to higher education. Fast track mental health support: The link member of staff within student services can refer students to internal and external services for mental health support. This includes designated Mental Health Advisors or counsellors within the University, Psychological Wellbeing Practitioners (PWP) for low-level Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and Social Prescribing link worker.
- Care experienced students are invited to attend a peer group to meet other students from care experienced backgrounds. The university is setting up a Care Experienced Student Network to help link students together and create a community on campus. The University offers voluntary information sessions (called ‘Know About Sessions’) for professional services and academic staff to raise awareness of care experienced students and the barriers they may face.
- The University is committed to using the experiences of care experienced students to make developments in support. Current methods of gathering feedback from students involve surveys, case studies and student panels, as well as informal feedback during 1:1 meetings with students.
- To build rapport between care experienced students and link member of staff, the University is exploring small gestures of support, including Christmas/ Birthday cards for care experienced students.
Careers and Employability
- Careers and Employability provide targeted support for final year students who are approaching the end of their studies. This support includes discussions around goals as well as support with finding a job or career. This is a bespoke service for care experienced students in recognition of their experience and concerns they may have about leaving higher education.
- The University’s Careers and Employability Team offer lifetime support for graduates. Care Experienced students will be introduced to the graduate Careers Adviser.
- Care experienced students are one of the eligible groups who can apply to the Futures Employability Fund. This is a fund where students can get up to £500 to spend on activities or items towards their future career.
- Care experienced students are also eligible to participate in the Inspiring Futures programme, where students can access additional careers related activities and support to achieve lifelong success.
- The University offers a 45% discount on postgraduate fees if a care experienced undergraduate student chooses to enrol on further study
- The University is exploring options of graduation support for care experienced students.
- The link member of staff will send a congratulatory card and email and attend graduations to support care experienced graduates.
The University of Chester is currently undergoing a review of support that we offer to care experienced students, across all areas. We will update the enhanced offer in due course.
Engaging with the Local Community
- University of Chester representatives have met with a local housing organisation, who support vulnerable young adults, to establish links and explore higher education as an option for them.
- The University’s site in Shrewsbury, University Centre Shrewsbury, is used as a venue for Shropshire’s In Care and Leaving Care awards.
- A member of staff sits on the Shropshire local authority’s ‘Aspirations Group’ which is a multi-agency committee looking at broader pathways into education, training and employment for care experienced young people within the region.
- The link member of staff for care experienced students, at the University of Chester, is a member of National Network for Education of Care Leavers (NNECL).
Going forward the University of Chester will use the Care Leaver Covenant as a framework to look to expand our work within the community.