What is higher education?

Higher Education (HE) includes university and college courses that lead to a Degree, Higher National Diploma, Diploma in Education, or Foundation Degree.

University is a great time for you to find your feet and develop your own identity. You'll meet lots of new people from all over the world, and some will become friends for life. You'll also be encouraged to think for yourself, develop your own ideas and question things while studying. These are skills that will stay with you forever.


If you are a care leaver at university and under 25, you should have a personal adviser and they should keep in touch with you. This might be regular phone calls or emails. You should contact them if there are things you're worried about. Many universities also have dedicated members of staff just for care leavers. It's worth getting in touch with them early on to find out how they might be able to help you.

The Who Cares Trust Higher Education Handbook is really useful for helping you choose a university. The Handbook lists the universities in England, and shows what support they provide for care leavers.

UCAS have put together some advice for care leavers - this may be helpful if you're thinking about university.

Living at university

Most people go back home during the holidays and that can sometimes be tricky for care leavers. The first thing to know is that your local authority has to provide vacation accommodation for you and this must be agreed before you start your course.  Another really helpful things is that many universities offer 365 days accommodation - so you can stay at uni all year round and not worry about heading back to your local authority.


Tuition Fees are charged by all universities and range from £4,500 to £9,000 a year. UCAS provide up to date information on student finance, and what support is available.

As well as tuition fees, you'll have living costs which will include rent, food, books and other things... This all sounds scary, but there's lots of financial support available. There are loans, grants and bursaries available to help you. Loans have to be paid back but grants and bursaries don't!

You can apply for loans to help with tuition fees and living costs:

  • The Tuition Fee Loan covers the fees you're charged each year for your course and goes directly to the university
  • Full time students can also apply for a Maintenance Loan to help with living costs. This is paid into your bank account at the start of each term.

Grants are available to full time students to help with living and study costs. You don't need to pay grants back. The amount you can get depends on your circumstances but it's likely that all care leavers will be able to get some money.

Each care leaver who goes to university is entitled to £2000 from their local authority.  There are some conditions, ask your social worker or pathway worker for more information. Each university has a different system in place for supporting care leavers. Some offer support such as personal advisers, care leaver networks or help finding accommodation and most offer bursaries. To find out what's available at the university you are thinking of going to, talk to their finance office, go to an open day or check out the prospectus.

Some charities provide help and grants to support care leavers at university, check out Buttle UK for more information.

You can apply for hardship funds from most universities - check with student support at your uni for more information.

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