For care experienced students

General information

When we say care experienced, we mean those who have spent any amount of time in the care of the local authority care, such as through foster care, children’s homes, or a supervision order, or who have spent time in kinship care.

We understand that as a care experienced student, you are likely facing complicated, ongoing challenges that may make applying for university feel like a particularly daunting task.

The University of Oxford is keen to support you throughout this process, from before you apply to helping you communicate your educational journey on your application.

If you need to travel to Oxford for interview, we are committed to covering your travel as well as other costs. All food and accommodation is free if you need to stay longer than a few hours.

The information outlined here covers some of the application guidance and support that is specific to care experienced students.

Visit the University’s Application Guide for more general information on the application process.

Should I declare my care experience?

In order to ensure you get the support available to you as a care experienced student, please let us know as soon as possible by indicating on your UCAS application that you’ve spent time in care. The earlier we know about your particular requirements, the sooner we can begin to meet them.

Understanding your experience in care will also help us consider your application fairly, alongside other important data which puts your achievements in context, and which we gather for all students from the UK.

Keep in mind that we will consider the wider context of surrounding your application regardless of your age, so if you are considering a return to education, we would still like to know about any time you spent in care.

Read about how we use this contextual data and what factors we consider.

In addition to telling us about your care experience on your UCAS application, we would like you to tell us about anything that will help us to see the bigger picture around your application. It would help if you include information about any disruptions to your education or other unique circumstances in your personal statement.

Alternatively ask your teacher to include these details in your reference, or contact the college that you have applied to directly. If you’re not sure what information might be relevant or how you should share it with us, please contact [email protected] for confidential advice and guidance.

Your application


We understand that many care experienced students face disruptions to their studies or changes of school, and that your educational background might be unusual.  Although many of our UK applicants are taking A-levels, we also accept a wide range of other equivalent qualifications.

Above all, we want to see that you have the skills and aptitudes necessary to enjoy your course, and your qualifications help provide evidence of your academic potential. If you are unsure how your particular qualifications would be viewed, please contact the subject department that you would like to apply to for further guidance.

Admissions Tests 

Many courses require admissions tests as part of the application process. Usually, you will sit these tests at your school or college, but you can also attend an open centre. For care experienced students, your local authority will be able to cover any cost of your admissions test registration. For more information, contact your personal adviser.


If your application is shortlisted, you will be invited to interview

Disruptions during your application process 

We understand that even after submitting your Oxford application, you may continue to face challenges to your educational path that make it difficult to thrive at your interview or to show your full potential at exam time.

If you have encountered difficulties at any point along the application process that you think we should be aware of, we suggest directly contacting the college that you have applied to.

Once you receive an offer

If you are offered a place at Oxford, we recommend getting in touch with your college as early as possible to start discussing what support may be available to you. This may include access to year-round accommodation, a possible early move-in date, or connecting with a current student mentor or other pastoral support.

Can I visit Oxford to learn more?

  • As a UK student with care experience, you would be given priority consideration for Oxford’s UNIQ programme. This programme is open to students studying in their first year of further education, who are based at UK state schools or colleges. Students make a single application between December and January. It is free to take part, and gives you a fantastic chance to learn more about life as an Oxford student, and offers lots of admissions advice, so you can make a competitive application to any university.

  • The University’s Open Days are another excellent way to explore Oxford, including opportunities to tour colleges, chat with current students, and learn more about the course you’re considering. If you are attending the Open Days and would like to speak to someone specifically about applying as a care experienced student, or are unable to attend the Open Days but would like to visit at another time, please contact [email protected] for further information.

  • Visit our Increasing Access pages for information on other events for prospective students, online, in Oxford and around the UK. Like UNIQ, many of the events listed here will offer priority consideration or additional funding for students with care experience.

What financial support can I get?

Support from the University of Oxford

  • As a care experienced student, you will be offered non-repayable bursary support from the University of Oxford, provided that your personal annual income is below a certain threshold. This support comes through the Crankstart Scholarship or, if you are not eligible for or choose not to take up the Crankstart Scholarship, through the Oxford Bursary scheme. If you are under 25 on the first day of your course you are also eligible to apply for the Care Experienced and Estranged Student Bursary, which provides additional non-repayable funding to qualifying students. and will be automatically contacted regarding how to apply for this. The Crankstart Scholarship and Oxford Bursary do not have age restrictions.
  • The Oxford Travel Supplement offers additional non-repayable funding annually for travel to and from Oxford for students who live more than 80 miles from Oxford.
  • If you have a shortfall in your finances, you can apply to the Student Support Fund for non-repayable funding to cover any additional needs you may have.
  • The financial support available from the University of Oxford does not have age restrictions. If you are applying as a mature, first-degree applicant, your household income is likely to be assessed on the basis of being an independent student and you would usually qualify for the highest levels of support. If you are living with a partner, their income will also be taken into account, which could mean you do not qualify for the maximum support. However, your age itself will not prevent you from being assessed for University funding.

Other sources of support

  • Individual colleges may offer additional support, for instance book grants or assistance with the costs of studying abroad.
  • The Disability Advisory Service can help students to secure funding through the Disabled Students Allowance, for instance to pay for learning support or to purchase a computer if you need one because of a disability.
  • Your Local Authority may be able to help you access other funding, for instance from the Higher Education Bursary, which supports care leavers under age 25 who are attending higher education for the first time.

Applying for financial support

The University offers generous financial support for care experienced students, including through the Crankstart Scholarship. In order to be considered for this support you will need to:

  • Declare your care status on your UCAS application form to enable us to contact you regarding the Care Experienced and Estranged Student Bursary Scheme.
  • Complete your relevant Student Finance application, including the household income assessment process. 

Once we have this information, we will follow up with you about the financial support that you are eligible to receive, including the Crankstart Scholarship, Care Experienced and Estranged Student Bursary, and the Oxford Travel Supplement.

What welfare support is available when I arrive?

  • The collegiate system at Oxford allows a unique, tailored support network for all of our students. Each undergraduate student is assigned a college tutor who oversees your academic progress throughout your degree and with whom you can discuss any concerns you may have. Your college support extends beyond your academic success, supporting you with a welfare team made up of medical staff, such as the college nurse and doctor, and trained support staff, who will provide pastoral support and can advise on academic, financial or welfare issues. Discover more about Oxford Colleges

  • Student Peer Supporters are available in colleges and departments to talk informally about anything that is concerning you. Peer Supporters are carefully selected and trained and receive support and supervision from the University Counselling Service.

  • Further support is available through the University’s Counselling Service, which provides free individual and group counselling sessions, as well as workshops and general advice.

  • The Disability Advisory Service supports students with disabilities, including specific learning difficulties, mobility or sensory impairments and mental and physical long-term health conditions. You can read more about applying as a disabled student and the additional support available.

Is year-round accommodation available?

One of your main concerns may be the possibility of securing year-round accommodation if you have nowhere to go during the vacation. Your college can help with this and work with you to organise other support, such as an early move in date or a place to store your belongings when you’re away.

If you have questions about your particular circumstances or what support may be available, please contact the colleges you are interested in applying to.

Who can I contact for more information?

We understand that the experiences and support requirements of care experienced students vary widely, and you may, therefore, have questions about your own unique circumstances.

Whether you are considering applying to Oxford yourself or supporting a care experienced young person who might be interested, please contact [email protected] for confidential advice and guidance, including assistance in connecting with Oxford colleges or departments or arranging a visit to Oxford.

Resources and Links

Quotes from care experienced students

Bryony - 'My tips would be to tick the box on the UCAS form, and utilise any support you can access. Get in touch with the college you apply to quickly, so you know where the support is coming from before results day.'

Lucy - 'I never believed that studying at Oxford would be possible until I came here, and now being at university has been the best time of my life. There no harm in trying, because it might just work out better than you ever imagined.'