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Care leavers and university

Find out about the range of support available if you’re planning on going to university after leaving care.

Going to university after leaving care can seem like a big step, but there is a lot of help you can get to find your feet. Some is provided by the government and some by the universities themselves, but the most important thing to do to access it is let them know you’re a care leaver by ticking the correct box on your UCAS form when you make your applications. This will help institutions to contact you with further details of the exact support they can provide.

Student finance

You can apply for the same loans as any student. Read our guide to student finance to find out more.

As a care leaver you will normally be classed as an independent student which means that, rather than having your maintenance loan means-tested against your parents’ income, you should qualify for the maximum amount available. Read our guide to financial support for independent students for more information.

In addition, care leavers could qualify for other financial support such as:

  • Local Authority bursary

Care leavers who begin a higher education course before their 25th birthday are entitled to a minimum £2,000 bursary from their local authority, which does not have to be paid back. Contact your local authority to find out how to claim this.

  • Other bursaries and scholarships

Universities offer a variety of bursaries and scholarships, some of which may be specific to care leavers. What you’ll get differs between universities, but might include a cash bursary or discounts on tuition fees or accommodation. You can also get money from the hardship funds if you’re experiencing money troubles, so get in touch with your university to find out about everything they can offer. Bursaries and scholarships do not have to be paid back. Read our guide to bursaries and scholarships to find out more. 

Accommodation

Although most students are expected to return home during the holidays, universities recognise that this could be a problem for care leavers, and many will arrange university accommodation or help you find a flat for 365 days a year if you contact the accommodation department before you start. Our Accommodation section has loads of information about university accommodation options.

Student services

One of the great things about university is that it gives everyone a chance for a fresh start, no matter what their background, so you shouldn’t be judged or singled out because you’ve been in care. However, if you do feel you need some extra support and understanding, most universities have dedicated officers in their student services departments trained in the specific issues facing care leavers, and there may also be mentoring programmes or clubs where you can meet other care leavers.

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