29/11/2017New national study: more care leavers going to university, but serious challenges remain

The ‘Moving On Up’ report, prepared by Dr Neil Harrison at the University of the West of England on behalf of the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL), is being launched today at the House of Commons.

This new national study is the first to provide an overall picture of care leavers in higher education. It explored the educational pathways of all young people in England who were 16 in 2008, tracking whether or not they entered higher education by 2015.  This was supplemented by survey responses from 212 care-experienced students currently in higher education.

The study found that 12 percent of care leavers had entered higher education by the age of 23 – higher than previous estimates of 6 percent. While this is positive news, the participation rate for care leavers was substantially lower than for other young people at 42 percent.  This is due, in large part, to the lower qualifications that care leavers are able to achieve in school in the context of the disruption in their lives.

Worryingly, care leavers in higher education were over a third more likely to withdraw than otherwise-similar students, as well as being more likely to have delays and restarts within their studies. However, those that did complete their degrees were as likely to achieve a first or upper second class degree as their peers.

Report author, Dr Neil Harrison, said, “The study shows a mixed picture. On the one hand, we’ve discovered that more care leavers are finding a way into higher education and that those who complete their studies tend to do very well.  Many report receiving excellent support from local authorities and universities.”

“On the other hand, it tends to take them longer than other young people to start and to finish, partly due to a range of challenges that are derived from their early life experiences coupled with weaker support or even negativity from services that should be helping them. In particular, it seems that alternative pathways into higher education are crucial to helping this group access higher education.”

Dowload the report here