For care experienced students | University of Oxford

For care experienced students

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. For more general information on the application process, see the University’s Application Guide.

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. You can 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 Alexandra Lyons at care@admin.ox.ac.uk for confidential advice and guidance.

Your application

  • Qualifications - 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.

  • Interviews - If your application is shortlisted, you will be invited to interview. If it is necessary for you to travel to Oxford, we will cover the cost. If you need to stay more than a few hours or overnight, all food and accommodation will be free. However, please note that in 2020, in light of the situation around coronavirus, interviews will be online so you will not be expected to travel here.

  • 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 Alexandra Lyons at care@admin.ox.ac.uk for further information.

  • For information on other events for prospective students, online, in Oxford and around the UK, see our Increasing Access pages. 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 up to £7,200 per year in 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 and the Care Experienced and Estranged Student Bursary, which will automatically be offered to all qualifying students.
  • If you choose not to take up the Crankstart Scholarship, you will be offered support through the Oxford Bursary scheme, which, in combination with the Care Experienced and Estranged Student Bursary, will offer you up to £6,200 per year in non-repayable bursary support.
  • The Oxford Travel Supplement offers additional non-repayable funding annually for travel home for students who live more than 80 miles from Oxford.
  • For any unexpected 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 applicant, your previous career or your spouse’s income may mean your household income does not qualify you for the highest levels of support. However, your age itself will not prevent you from qualifying 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 don’t need to fill out any separate applications, but 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.
  • Care experienced students are considered “independent students” by Student Finance, and therefore only your own personal income will be counted in your household income assessment. The Higher Education Bursary from your local authority does not count as income. A care experienced student is defined by Student Finance as an applicant with three or more months in care before their 16th birthday who have not returned to the care of their parents at any time before the first day of their course.

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. 

  • 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. Your college will help you find 365-day accommodation, and can work with you to provide 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 one or more college 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 Alexandra Lyons at care@admin.ox.ac.uk for confidential advice and guidance, including assistance in connecting with Oxford colleges or departments or arranging a visit to Oxford.

Resources and Links

Care experienced student quotes

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.”