Supporting Care Experienced Young People into Higher Education. Collier Fund 4 Report

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Knight, Elizabeth ORCID: 0000-0001-6596-6525 and Colvin, Emma ORCID: 0000-0002-1802-7696 (2021) Supporting Care Experienced Young People into Higher Education. Collier Fund 4 Report. Project Report. Charles Sturt University, New South Wales, Australia.


Care-leavers have experienced removal from their parental home during childhood. This may be as a result of neglect, abuse, death of family members or inability of family members to care for them. There are approximately 45,000 children in care in Australia and child protection orders are growing (AIHW, 2020). When removed, children may stay with relatives in a kinship care arrangement, foster care or residential care, for example, a group home. A significant body of research demonstrates that care-leavers are less likely to attain educational qualifications, less likely to have good health, and are more likely to have contact with the criminal justice and mental health systems. Their participation rates in higher education are low: care-experienced school leavers are three-times less likely to enrol in university (Harvey et al., 2015). Those who do enter higher education face significant challenges from childhood trauma that may adversely affect their studies. This project provides suggestions for practice including to higher education institutions, career practitioner professional groups and jurisdictions about how to present information that promotes higher education transition, and to higher education providers on more inclusive measures to attract and support care-leavers. Building on Harvey et al.’s (2017) findings that there was a 'lack of formal assistance and information when applying for university', this study explores the knowledge universities have about the challenges for care-leavers and what specific support is available for them. The purpose of this study is to address existing challenges faced by care-experienced young people in accessing information about and support for access to higher education. The research presented here includes novel discovery work about information and support gaps for care-leavers. The findings, shown below, will provide universities with information about barriers to higher education for care-leavers. The findings presented in this report uncover valuable information about the systemic barriers for young people with out of home care experience and possible avenues that could enhance the equitable access to higher education. Project findings are summarised as follows: 1. There is a systemic lack of understanding of the needs of care-experienced students in higher education across all education systems. 2. There is a significant gap in post-school transition planning for young people with care experience while at school, at home and in governmental support. 3. There are multiple significant barriers to accessing appropriate career information for care experienced young people. With the assistance of philanthropic grant funding from Fund 4 of the Collier Foundation, this project has enabled novel research about higher educational transitions of care-experienced young people with a specific focus on equitability of access to information. The project has undertaken a national scan of current information provision for care-experienced young people, conducted a national survey of career practitioners, and achieved qualitative data generation with participants drawn from higher education stakeholders and those who support carers. The data sourced on career information and support in higher education transition available to care-leavers in each state have been mapped and an infographic created that will be a publicly available resource, which also appears as the cover image for this report. This infographic, which maps barriers to opportunity for young people with care experience, has been used as part of the dissemination pathway of this project.

Additional Information

Commissioning body: Collier Charitable Foundation

Item type Monograph (Project Report)
Official URL
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1301 Education Systems
Current > Division/Research > Centre for International Research on Education Systems (CIRES)
Keywords care leavers, care experience, career development, young people, barriers to opportunity, higher education transition, inclusive measures, equitability, Australia
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