The Experience of Care leavers in UK Higher Education
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This paper reports the findings of a qualitative study into the experience of care leavers (students who have previously been in local authority care) at a UK university. Working with a small group of final year care leaver students, the research used a narrative interview approach to explore their experiences throughout their time in Higher Education (HE), and their future plans after completion. Analysing the interviews using a resilience framework, the findings illustrate a range of risk and protective factors which impact on success in higher education (HE) for this group of students. Like other non-traditional students, key factors include motivation for participation, good preparation for university life and learning, and academic, personal and financial support. Particularly important for this group is the availability of a safety net, and support from a significant adult. This was often provided by the university care leavers’ service which offered a crucial source of support for students without another obvious point of contact. Perhaps surprisingly, all students felt that being in care had had a positive impact on their university experience although for varying reasons. All of the students in the study went on to complete their degrees successfully despite the challenges encountered.
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