Young people who have little or no support from their families but dream of going to university can turn those dreams into a reality thanks to a £2,000 a year scholarship from the University of Sunderland.

From September 2019 the We Care Scholarship will offer more support to marginalised young people studying at Sunderland.

Wendy Price, Access to Higher Education and Scholarships Manager at the University, says: “We recognise the additional challenges faced by our care experienced and estranged students and are committed to providing the highest possible levels of support.

“This increased funding for students will mean that each student receives an additional scholarship payment during the summer period, which we know is a time when many can experience financial difficulties.

“Our aim is for every single one of our students to achieve their full potential during their time at university.

“We consult regularly with our students and they have told us the difference this additional funding will make, not just financially, but also to their mental health and wellbeing.”

The University of Sunderland’s We Care Support Team meet with each of the University’s care experienced and estranged students to produce a bespoke support plan.

This is based on the student’s individual needs and can include help with finding accommodation 52 weeks a year, wellbeing support, additional financial support and finding part time work.

In March this year Government minsters set out the need for a ‘cultural change’ at universities to encourage more care leavers to stay in higher education.

Currently just six per cent of young people leaving care go on to study at university by the age of 21, and those who do are more than twice as likely to drop out.

Judith Cossey, 25

Sunderland University

Sunderland University student Judith Cossey Picture: David Wood

Judith is studying for a Masters degree in Practice Development at the University of Sunderland. She has overcome childhood neglect, growing up in care and issues with drugs and drink.

One of the things that students like Judith value most is always having someone looking out for them on campus, whether this is to help with academic support or just for a coffee and a chat.

“The Care Experienced Students Support Team were a massive support for me during my studies,” says Judith. “I completed my top up degree in Health and Social Care in 2017, and then proceeded onto my Masters.

“The best advice that I would give anyone thinking about studying at Sunderland is to stick at it. Although things may seem impossible at times, there is always a way to resolve it. If you are feeling down, talk to people. Friends you make at university are friends for life.

“Never feel as if you are alone during your time at university. No one is ever alone.”

William Graydon, 21

Sunderland University

Sunderland University student Will Graydon Picture: David Wood

William is in the second year of his BA Media Production degree. A combination of determination, self-belief, and the right support has brought William to where he wants to be in his life.

“When I was in the care home they asked me what I wanted to do, and I told them I wanted to go to university – and they laughed, they thought I was joking.

“If it wasn’t for the Care Experienced Students Support Team I would have quit university. I’ve had amazing help from the university, particularly last year when my dad died and again this year with my granddads passing, they were there for me.

“Anytime I’ve needed help they’re there. They have no idea how much they’ve helped me. It’s amazing to know that there’s someone there to help and support me, and who I can trust.”

Kelly Stanley, 21

Sunderland University

Sunderland University student Kelly Stanley Picture: David Wood

Kelly is in the final year of her BSc Social Sciences degree. Following her father’s death Kelly was put into care, where she quickly realised that she wanted to make something of her life, and education was her best route to change.

“My dad died when I was 12, and my mum ended up at home on benefits. I didn’t want to end up like that, I wanted to have a proper career, and I wanted to show my brothers and sisters that they could too.

“There are thousands and thousands of people like me who leave care every year, and while university isn’t right for all of them, I think they need to be encouraged more. A lot of the support you get just vanishes when you leave care.

“I plan to start an MSc in Inequality and Society after my degree. I want to get a step ahead of everyone else.”

The University of Sunderland is a member of the NNECL (National Network for the Education of Care Leavers), supports the Care Leaver Covenant and was first university in the region to sign the Stand Alone Pledge, a commitment to support students who are estranged from their families and studying without the support of approval of a family network, helping them to succeed in higher education.

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