Unite Foundation

Unite Foundation parliamentary reception celebrates step forward in understanding and responding to the needs of care leaver and estranged students

We had a wonderful evening at the Houses of Parliament sharing the highlights of Positive Impact? a report commissioned by the Unite Foundation that sheds light on the needs of students who do not have family support.

The report, delivered in partnership with Sheffield Hallam, StandAlone and Oxford University’s Rees Centre, brings together existing outcomes data with primary research and the voices of students themselves to understand how to improve access, participation and completion rates for care leavers and estranged students.

It draws on analysis of national datasets and in depth interviews with both students and staff to reveal four main findings:

University is transformative

Care leavers and estranged student who go to university and complete their course do as well as other students in their future careers, but they face specific barriers to access and participation because of their background and circumstances and are less likely to complete their course.

Bureaucracy is a barrier

Students have to reveal their personal situation again and again to access the support and help they’re entitled to, and this impacts on mental health and wellbeing.

Support needs unity of purpose

A single point of contact for support and advice while at university is key to helping care leavers and estranged students navigate the system

There’s still too much we just don’t know

Improved data collection by universities and government bodies would enable further understanding of the barriers these students face, and how they can be overcome.

The event was hosted by Unite Foundation Director Eluned Parrott and attended by the Universities Minister, the Director for Fair Access and Participation, Chris Millward, Vice Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, Professor Sir Chris Husbands and Unite Students CEO Richard Smith, amongst other sector professionals.


“I’m glad to see progress being made through this report to highlight the barriers these students face and how to best help them succeed. We all have a collective responsibility to young people who unfortunately don’t have family support, and I hope the sector makes good use of this research and prioritises the needs of these groups.”  

Chris Skidmore


You can download the report and annexes here:

Positive Impact Report

Positive Impact Annex 1

Positive Impact Annex 2


Image credit: Josh Caius