A new admissions policy has been announced across all Scottish Universities, aiming to increase the number of care-experienced people going to university.

The recent Education Outcomes for looked after children 17/18 show that ‘looked after’ school leavers are around 10 times less likely to progress directly from school to higher education than school leavers more generally, demonstrating the great amount of work that is still required to close the attainment gap and to enable all care-experienced young people to thrive.

Care-experienced students will now be guaranteed an offer of admission should they meet the minimum course entry requirements at every university in Scotland from the next admissions cycle (applications for courses beginning in Autumn 2020) onwards.

Of significance is the lack of an age cap on entitlement within the admissions policy, which will ensure that care-experienced adults – regardless of their journey to accessing university – will still receive a guaranteed offer on meeting the minimum entry requirements. This is a particularly positive shift beyond the all-too-frequent ‘ceiling’ of support at 26 years of age.

Staf CEO, Norma Corlette, commented on the policy announcement:

“The commitment across every Scottish university to provide guaranteed offers for care-experienced students, of all ages, is a positive and welcomed step forward in improving access to higher education.

In order to realise a vision of society where the wellbeing and success of those leaving care is indistinguishable from their peers, there must be a continued push to build on policies such as this: ensuring both increased access and retention in higher education through wide-ranging relational and material support.”

The move to introduce guaranteed offers for care-experienced students follows recommendations made within the final report of The Commission for Widening Access, ‘A Blueprint for Fairness’ in 2016 – which also recommended measures that led to the introduction of the Care Experienced Bursary.

The announcement of the admissions policy has seen some disappointing media framing, including an article in The Times which juxtaposes ‘star’ students with ‘disadvantaged’ students accessing university places through the measure – failing to acknowledge that not only can care-experienced students themselves be ‘star’ students achieving at a very high level, but also that those meeting the entry requirements, at whatever level, with a care experience and/or other structural disadvantages are likely to have overcome numerous and complex additional barriers that their peers have not. Grades in isolation are not a reflection of potential.

The care-experienced community have hit out at the stigmatising rhetoric from The Times piece:

CELCIS, on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council, have recently conducted a Scotland-wide survey of care-experienced students – you can read the report detailing the findings of this survey here.

You can read the Universities Scotland press release on the admissions policy here