This year marks the 10th anniversary of the Unite Foundation, a decade of widening access to higher education through a unique scholarship, that provides care experienced and estranged students with university accommodation for three full years of study.
As we looked back over the last 10 years, we wanted to really understand what the impact of our scholarship has been on student outcomes. What could a decade’s worth of data tell us about the retention, progression and completion rates of our students, compared to other care leaver groups and non-care leavers?
We have seen, and been told by Unite Foundation students, the impact of the scholarship, but we needed to interrogate the data to really understand what this meant in context. What better birthday present to ourselves than to commission Jisc to carry out an independent comparative analysis of our data? (We know how to treat ourselves!!)
In June of this year we launched This is 10 Years of Impact, alongside a full Jisc Data Analytics Report. The research provides a comparative analysis of students who had received a Unite Foundation scholarship with those students who had not, creating three comparator groups of:
- non-care leavers
- care leavers within the same network of universities
- care leavers outside the Unite Foundation network
The populations were connected to the HESA record and, in the absence of a ‘flag’ for estranged students, we have focused on care leavers (though we have some confidence from previous studies that outcomes for estranged students are comparable to care leavers). The report concentrated on key performance metrics, specifically: year-to-year progression, completion of a first degree within three academic years and the attainment of a ‘good degree’ (1st of 2:1)
What we learned
Unite Foundation scholarship students stay on their course; our students progressed from their 1st to 2nd year of programme within two academic years at the same percentage as non-care leaver students and at a statistically significantly higher percentage to the other care leavers groups examined.
Rates of completion were at a statistically significantly higher percentage than all other care leaver student groups and closer to the non-care leavers comparator group; narrowing the gap in outcomes. This measure was particularly demanding to analyse, not allowing for retaking of years, in order to be able to have enough students to remain statistically robust and meant we could not yet assess our Scottish students on standard 4 year courses.
Unite Foundation scholarship students achieved a ‘good honours’ degree within 3 percentage points of non-care leaver students and at a statistically significantly higher percentage than all other care leaver comparison groups.
These results confirmed what we had suspected about the impact of the scholarship, with Jisc stating in their full report that ‘Overall, the report provides strong evidence that the Unite Foundation scholarship improves care leaver students’ educational outcomes, specifically in year to year progression, completion and degree outcome.’
However, to understand and claim causality we need to draw from a wider data set and we want to explore how, by comparing schemes that address housing fragility, we might be able to extrapolate trends across similar widening participations interventions.
We believe there is an opportunity to leverage data collated through the Higher Education Access Tracker (HEAT), to coordinate and collaborate on understanding outcomes across institutions. A coordinated approach to data analysis will help to build a broader picture of the care leaver and estranged student experience across the sector and create a more robust case for greater and continued support for these students. To underpin this we’re working with a group of other partners to explore what a standardised set of questions around housing fragility could look like and the impact that has on students engagement and performance. We’d love to hear from you if you’re already exploring the impact of housing fragility.
Whist we know that our scholarship is a significant investment, we also now know – from the robust data we have – that it works. Addressing housing fragility for care leaver and estranged students helps to level the playing field and enables them to succeed in higher education – going on to gain access to more fulfilling futures and successful careers.
At Unite Foundation we want to help to support you as NEON members in making the case for, what might feel like a radical intervention, in supporting care experienced and estranged students – but one that is proven to make a tangible difference. We’d love to talk with you about how to set up your own accommodation scholarship programme; helping to ensure that once these students get to university, they stay at university and are able to progress at the same level as non-care leavers.
Only 13% of care leavers attend university, with additional support for this student group, this number could and should be higher.
If you’re interested in working together to improve the university experience for care leavers and estranged students get in touch at email@example.com