Posted Monday 30 April 2018
A new partnership between Kingston University and the Unite Foundation has been set up to provide accommodation scholarships for young people while they are studying. From this September, the Unite Foundation – the charitable arm of student accommodation providers Unite Students – will house Kingston University care leavers and estranged learners accepted on to the programme for the full three years of their undergraduate studies.
Students will be housed in purpose-built accommodation in central London, alongside undergraduates from a number of universities, giving them the security of a stable place to live throughout their studies, 365 days a year. Set up in 2012 with the aim of helping young people estranged from their families or leaving care to realise their potential at university, the Unite Foundation has awarded more than 250 scholarships to students from 28 partner institutions.
The partnership is led by Kingston University's KU Cares team which offers a comprehensive package of support for care leavers, young independent students and young adult carers. The University's Access and Inclusion Manager Emily Hughes said the scheme would provide help for students that needed it most.
"The scholarships will alleviate some of the anxiety care leavers and those students who are estranged from their families can experience when committing to studying for a degree," she said.
"Accommodation is one of the key issues our students face. Many have a number of different housing placements during the course of a year, or face disruption and isolation during the holiday periods when their peers return home to their family. It is a huge benefit to have the security of a place they can call home for the duration of their degree."
Mrs Hughes said the scholarship was not just about financial savings, it was also about giving students the experience of living with other learners and providing additional support to help develop students' confidence in their ability to succeed at university.
"We already have a broad programme of support but there has been nothing this generous aimed at individual students," she explained. "Housing can be a barrier to potential students continuing their education. With no family to offer support, they can find it difficult to find the money for a deposit or someone to act as a guarantor. This can discourage them from leaving accommodation they may already have with their local authority."
The KU Cares team offers a range of support for estranged learners, those with experience of the care system and young adult carers. In addition, each year the team looks after four bursaries – known as Sanctuary Awards – which are awarded by the University. The awards are for asylum seekers and are run in parnership with the Helena Kennedy Foundation Article 26 project.
With 263 undergraduates currently in the KU Cares network, Kingston University is reponsible for one of the largest cohorts in the country. A variety of bursary schemes are offered to students to provide a level of financial support, but it is the pastoral support they receive from the University that is often most valued.
Mrs Hughes emphasised the importance of students acquiring as much experience as possible while at university and explained that applications to the student ambassador and KU Cares placement schemes were greatly encouraged. "These opportunities allow students to gain confidence in completing formal applications and going for interviews. We make sure they receive a lot of feedback and, where possible, also secure some paid work experience in a field they are interested in," she said. "We also work with a lot of external organisations and charities that offer CV building, interview training or work experience placements."
Sir Tim Wilson, Chair of the Unite Foundation, welcomed Kingston University to the network of Foundation partners. "We have a shared goal – the success of care leavers and estranged students," he said. "The combination of the support provided by Kingston University and our accommodation scholarships should provide a home for success for talented young people."