Support for care experienced students

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Support for care experienced students

What does ‘care experienced’ mean?

Students who may be known as a ‘looked after child’ at school would be known as ‘care experienced’ or a ‘care leaver’ by colleges and universities. The definition of being care experienced is broad, and Who Cares? Scotland provide a helpful guide here.

Support for care experienced students thinking about Higher Education

If you are considering applying to college or university, support is available. This can be provided by LEAPS (if you attend a school with which LEAPS works), your school, or local groups or services. There is also a range of support available at colleges and universities to help you access and continue in higher education. The type of support varies across institutions, but lots of information is available and LEAPS can help you find out more.

How can LEAPS help?

At LEAPS we have a named contact for care experienced students:  Sarah Austen. Sarah can help you with the following:

  • Advice on considering college or university
  • Support during the application process
  • Information about financial support available
  • Emails throughout the year with relevant information and advice for care experienced students
  • Introduce you to named contacts at colleges and universities
  • Connect you to other support or advice services
  • A friendly chat in person, on the phone or email to answer any questions – big or small!

You can reach Sarah at or by phone at 0131 650 4676.

Financial Support

If you plan to begin an HNC, HND or university, you should apply to the Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) to help fund your studies. It is recommended that you complete an application to SAAS between April and the end of June in the year you plan to begin your studies. You can apply for:

  • Tuition fees
  • A Care Experienced Students Bursary (which can help with living or accommodation costs)
  • A Care Experienced Accommodation Grant (to help with accommodation costs in the summer holidays)

You do not have to pay the above SAAS funds back.

SAAS currently defines a student as care experienced if:

  • You have ever been looked after by a Local Authority in the UK; and
  • You are under 26 on the first day of the first academic year of your course

Keep an eye out for updated SAAS funding guides for the most up-to-date funding information. The SAAS 2020-2021 funding guide will be published on the SAAS website when available. 

You may also be eligible for extra funding in the form of bursaries or scholarships. These are financial awards that do not have to be paid back, and are available from lots of different organisations including universities and educational trusts. Find out more about these in our Student Finance blog post and take a look at the links further down this page.

UCAS Tick Box

If you are care experienced, we’d suggest that you tick the box in the care questions section of the UCAS application form so that the colleges and universities you are applying to know from the point of your application that you are care experienced. Find out more about this UCAS tick box here. This means that colleges and universities can consider the type of offers that they make to you in the context of your care experienced background, and there may be support available specifically for care experienced students. This will vary by institution, and it’s up to you if you take up any offers or support available, but it’s good to be informed about it – then you can make your choice as to whether or not it’s the right thing for you.

Find some more information from UCAS, including a video to hear the views of some care experienced students on the support they received, here.

College application forms will usually have a care experienced/care leaver tick box as well, again to help with information for admissions purposes and support.

Support for Care Experienced Students at College and University

Colleges and universities differ in their definition of care experienced students, so it’s worthwhile researching who they consider to be care experienced and what support they offer them.

To help you get started with this, we’ve pulled together some links to the relevant sections of some college and university websites below:

University of Aberdeen
Abertay University
University of Dundee
University of Edinburgh
Edinburgh Napier University
University of Glasgow
Glasgow Caledonian University
Glasgow School Art
Heriot-Watt University
University of the Highlands and Islands
Queen Margaret University
Robert Gordon University
Royal Conservatoire of Scotland
Scotland's Rural College (SRUC)
University of St Andrew’s
University of Stirling
University of Strathclyde
University of the West of Scotland

Borders College
City of Glasgow College
Edinburgh College
Fife College
Forth Valley College
Glasgow Clyde College 
Glasgow Kelvin College 
New College Lanarkshire
West Lothian College

We’d always recommend that you contact the college or university you are interested in if you have any queries about the support they offer to care experienced students, so that they can provide you with up-to-date information. Find a list of the named point of contact at every university in Scotland here, including contact details.

HUB for SUCCESS: supporting those with care experience to get in, stay in, or return to education

The HUB for SUCCESS (Support for University and College for Care Experienced in South East Scotland) is a collaborative project concerned with improving post-school educational outcomes for people of all ages with experience of care. Find out more here

Other Useful Links