Students have attended a celebratory event to mark the start of a partnership for helping care leavers excel in higher education.
Plymouth University has partnered with The Unite Foundation - the charitable arm of its student accommodation partner, Unite Students - to provide free accommodation and a cost of living allowance to a number of successful applicants. Eligible students include those who have previously been in local authority care, are irreconcilably estranged from their parents or have been living in residential provision for young homeless adults.
On 21 October the first cohort of students benefiting from the scholarship met with Professor David Coslett, Interim Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at Plymouth University, and Jenny Shaw, Chair of the Unite Foundation, as they signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
Following the partnership agreement back in May, The Unite Foundation is set to award five scholarships each year to applicants to Plymouth University, which will meet the full cost of accommodation in a Plymouth Unite student property for 52 weeks of the year plus a cash scholarship of £3,000 per year, for the duration of their course.
This equates to approximately £30,000 of financial support per student over the course of their degree. This is a vital source of support for the students who apply, particularly as funding is one of the key issues to determine whether a care leaver will attend or stay on in higher education.
Louise Baker, who attended the event on behalf of the University’s care leavers’ team, said:
“Accommodation and funding are two of the most important considerations for any student and a major factor in how they settle in to their new city and life, and our first cohort of Plymouth University Unite scholars have been delighted to meet Jenny and her colleagues from Unite who, along with the University, have effectively opened up the door to afford them a future in higher education.”
Jenny Shaw from The Unite Foundation said:
“The barriers faced by our scholars are very real. For example, if you are a young person who has been in care you are six times less likely to make it to university. That’s clearly unfair. Plymouth University is as committed to levelling the odds as we are, and it’s fantastic they have become a Unite Foundation partner university.”
Professor Coslett said:
“We are delighted to launch this partnership because it helps shape our inclusive approach to all students including young people from care backgrounds and others in need enabling them to realise their dreams.”
Plymouth University Care Leavers Service works with looked after young people prior to enrolment at Plymouth and with current students that are care leavers. It offers a care leaver bursary of £2,000 per year, access to year-round accommodation, membership of the Care Advisory Knowledge Exchange (CAKE) group plus a support worker who will signpost, advocate and provide a friendly listening ear.