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Resilience, higher education and widening participation: generating change for care experienced students

Ellis, Katie; Johnston, Claire

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Katie Ellis

Research Fellow in Penalsupervision in Comparativecontext


Over 80,000 children in England were being looked after in Local Authority care in 2020 and a further 40,000 people were defined as ‘care leavers’. Although a significant body of research highlights the prevalence of educational low achievement in the care experienced population, official government figures show that around 13% of care experienced pupils progress to higher education by the age of 19. In a climate of ‘widening participation’ in which universities encourage inclusion and student diversity, this research invited students with a care background to discuss their experiences of settling into university life. Data was collected using in-depth interviews with 42 students from four universities and an online survey completed by 192 students in 29 universities in England and Wales. Findings revealed that although care experienced students overcome significant challenges to progress to higher education, over half considered dropping out. Others reported feeling isolated and inadequately supported, both financially and pastorally, by their institution. This paper uses a lens of resilience to consider the environmental factors that impact upon student transitions, and concludes that universities must act to balance inequalities in order to appropriately welcome and appreciate care leavers for the skills and experience they bring.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 4, 2022
Online Publication Date Dec 19, 2022
Publication Date 2024-01
Deposit Date Mar 1, 2023
Publicly Available Date Mar 2, 2023
Journal Higher Education
Print ISSN 0018-1560
Electronic ISSN 1573-174X
Publisher Springer Verlag
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 87
Pages 1-16
Keywords Resilience, Higher education, Transition, Support, Care leavers
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