New study aims to help cared for and estranged students achieve university success

22nd March 2019

A consortium led by Sheffield Hallam University has been awarded a research grant to examine the factors that affect access to and success in higher education for estranged students and those who have spent time in care.

The research has been commissioned and funded by the Unite Foundation, the UK's leading provider of HE scholarships for care-experienced and estranged students. The project will examine which support strategies make the most difference to life chances, and make recommendations as to how universities and partners, like the foundation, can improve the support they offer. While the introduction of mandatory access and participation plans has increased the amount of investment universities put into widening participation activities, there has been little research into which interventions have the biggest impact on the individual's long-term life chances. The Unite Foundation research brings together Sheffield Hallam University in partnership with the charity Stand Alone and Oxford University's Rees Centre. A particular focus of the £90,000 project will be empowering care-experienced and estranged students, and potential students, to have a real influence over the outcome, inviting them not only to have their say through surveys and group interviews, but also to take part in the development of findings and discussion of the interim results at a research summit. Speaking about the research, Eluned Parrott, director of the Unite Foundation said: -Going to university is a transformative experience, but the barriers young people face if they don't have a supportive family background to give them confidence and encouragement can be enormous. At the Unite Foundation, we believe that every young person should have the opportunity to succeed, whatever their background. -We are delighted to commission this research in the hope that by learning from the experience of the young people themselves, we can understand how to transform lives now and in the future. Professor Jacqueline Stevenson, head of research at Sheffield Hallam's Sheffield Institute of Education, said: "We are very pleased to have this opportunity, in partnership with students, to develop practical guidance which can help those who have experience of the care system or who are estranged from their families to both access higher education and to be successful once there. Together we can really make a difference." Early results from the research will be presented at a summit this summer, with publication of the final study anticipated in the autumn. Sheffield Hallam University is committed to building stronger communities. The University draws together and stimulates research across traditional disciplinary boundaries to support more inclusive communities, in response to major societal challenges at local, national and global levels. For press information: Polly Mosley in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 3224 or email

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