The Unite Foundation Scholar Survey: Finding Your Feet and Building Confidence…
Our survey focus for 2019…
The Unite Foundation has an established track record of research. Our 2015 collaboration with StandAlone, “New Starts: The challenges of Higher Education without the support of a family network,” resulted in OFFA briefing. Looking to the near future, the Unite Students Insight Report is due to include a study relating care leaver and estranged students and we look forward to the results of our commissioned research project from Sheffield Hallam University, The Rees Centre at the University of Oxford and StandAlone.
We also engage with our scholarship students on an annual basis to explore our impact and understand what else we can do to support their university journey. In 2019 we used our survey results to look specifically at the personal impact of scholarships, the role of confidence, working patterns and career goals. We found that the principal expression of Foundation support impact is the reduction of stress. Many of our scholars referenced difficulties in tackling accommodation and money worries, and how the security of a Foundation scholarship has contributed to combatting this.
Our first year scholars seem to feel this relief of stress more powerfully, perhaps reflecting on the urgency of their recent worries, prior to being awarded a scholarship. Around 15% of this year’s scholars have requested an early move in. Most of them are first years and this perhaps reflects the precarious nature of their current living arrangements. It is easy to forget that a move to university can be a chance to escape a structured existence for some, but for others it is a precious chance to establish one.
“It has helped me build friendships and helped me build a life away from being in care.”
Scholars that have been with us longer report the stability, continuity and reliability of support as the most beneficial aspect of the scholarship.
“The Foundation Scholarship has changed my university experience, both this year and throughout my degree. I simply could not have fully immersed myself in university life if not for the scholarship…I would have had to commute or work 20+ hours per week just to afford to live. The scholarship has given me the financial freedom my peers have and put me on an even playing field with them, allowing me the time and support to excel in my degree and partake in various extra curricular clubs and work experience placements.”
The benefits of the scheme remove a barrier and allows the student feel that they can focus; on study, extra-curricular activities and building supporting social networks.
“The stability of having a room rent free for the year has meant that I can focus on studies and not worry about whether I can afford to support my living and study. This has opened up more opportunity and means I don’t have to settle for less. Without the foundation it is fair to say that I would not have been able to go to university to further my skills in my chosen career.”
Self-confidence is proven time and time again to be a powerful force for positive outcomes and resilience. We were interested to see the differences in confidence between first years and returning scholars.
The first year confidence rocket identifies areas of confidence for 1st year scholarship students. First year students have most confidence in their accommodation and living arrangements – presumably because of the security the scholarship affords. Confidence in ability to face challenges also scored highly. Lowest confidence levels for first years were in their own self-esteem.
For returning students, second years and beyond, confidence levels in course completion rise slightly but other areas start to dip a little as they start to approach the end of their course.
There is a clear correlation between confident students and some club memberships. Sports clubs particularly seem to have a confidence building affect. Perhaps surprisingly, performance groups, which it may be assumed would build confidence, seem to have the opposite affect, with scholars reporting a drop in confidence from participating in performance.
“The foundation scholarship has allowed me to put my studies first. This has been reflected in my academic achievement and also how much more positive I am about my degree. It has also hugely reduced my travel time and enabled me to use my money to do things I enjoy like playing football and joining a gym which all help me stay happy and focused on my uni work.“
Confidence correlates with certainty. Scholars planning for jobs or further study after finishing their degree had more confidence in their courses and in themselves. 80% of scholars had firm plans and goals.
Nearly a quarter of first years, 23%, unsurprisingly had not decided post-graduation plans. This drops to 9% for returners who arguably are most at risk of another cliff edge when leaving university and support.
Confident students are more likely to have worked in the year, with those with certain post-graduate goals being more likely to have worked specifically to enhance CV over earning money alone.