Support for care leavers and care experienced students

Students sitting at a table

At ARU, we're committed to supporting our students who are Care Leavers and those who are Care Experienced throughout your higher education experience, and we currently have over 140 students with experience of care studying with us.

What do ‘Care Leaver’ and ‘Care Experienced’ mean?

The term ‘Care Leaver’ comes from The Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000: a Care Leaver is someone who has been in the care of the Local Authority for a period of 13 weeks or more spanning their 16th birthday and is aged 25 or under. At ARU, we also include students who are aged 16-25 who have been referred to a Foyer by their Local Authority.

‘Care Experienced’ refers to anyone who has been or is currently in care or from a looked after background at any stage of their life, no matter how short, including adopted children who were previously looked after. Care may have been provided in a number of ways or settings such as foster care, kinship care, residential care or through being looked after at home with a supervision requirement.

Specific support at ARU

The support available at ARU does vary slightly depending on whether you are a Care Leaver or Care Experienced, but please be assured that you won’t be left on your own.

Before you apply

Whether you are just starting to think about Higher Education, seeking advice about Student Finance or writing a successful Personal Statement, the Outreach Team are here to help.

“I was really nervous to start University as a care-experienced student, however the support I have received from lecturers, the student experience team and other care-experienced students has been invaluable.”
Lys, Social Work student

Meet the Outreach team

Our Outreach Team is made up of:

  • Margot Broadbent-Yale (Cambridge)
  • Georgie Long (Cambridge)
  • Katie Groves (Chelmsford)
  • Meenujah Logasounthiran (Chelmsford)
  • Georgia Downs (Chelmsford)

Student Ambassadors

We work with Student Ambassadors with a care background to help us enhance our School and College events – you too could join our Student Ambassador Scheme and work for the University!

If you are a Care Leaver or have a Care Experienced background, you can contact us at for any advice and support, to book on to an event/activity, or to find out more information in regards to anything to do with higher education.

Outreach work

Our Outreach Team offer a variety of activities and events which are open to all, as well as activities which are exclusive to care leaver/care experienced students in Years 10 and 12. Some of these events will need to be booked by a teacher or carer, and some you can book yourself.

We organise:

  • Open days
  • Subject and University taster sessions
  • Campus tours and visits
  • Conferences
  • Talks about how to choose a course, student finance, personal statements and more…

We also visit schools and colleges to talk to students about applying to university and the support on offer. Find out more on our Schools and Colleges pages.

If you would like to attend an event, help with filling in your UCAS application or information and advice about anything related to higher education study, please email

Care Professionals

We welcome enquiries from carers, personal advisors, support workers and teachers who are helping young people to transition to higher education. We run an annual conference for foster carers, designated members of staff and other care professionals. For more information, please email

Read more about more about our outreach work.

UCAS and ARU Admissions


It is extremely important that you tick the ‘in care’ box on your UCAS application to let us know that you have been in care for three months or more. This does not put you at a disadvantage, in fact, it puts you at an advantage as we will be in touch to advise you of all the support that is available to you once you start with us, should you want it – we do appreciate that everyone if different!

Find out why you should tick the 'in care' box on UCAS

ARU Admissions

You may get special consideration in the admissions process and you will have access to an Outreach Officer who can support you through the whole process, including preparing for interviews and submitting portfolios, in order to ensure that you are as prepared as you can be when applying to us.

If you would like any advice or support, please email

Support throughout your studies at ARU

When your status changes from an applicant to a student, the Student Experience team will take over as your point of contact if you are studying at one of our core campuses (Cambridge, Chelmsford or Peterborough) and we are here to support you throughout your studies.

You can contact us directly using our designated email address and you can find out more about the support we can connect you with using the drop-downs below.

“Departments try their best to support care leavers like: Admissions, Residential Services, Study Skills Plus, Student Advice and Money Advice. All these little things have helped me to achieve my degree in the best way possible. Enjoy your experience being an ARU student and get the most of it.”
M. Fadhel, BSc (Hons) Sports Science

Meet the Student Experience Team

Our team are your point of contact throughout your studies whether you are a Care Leaver or are Care Experienced – we will check in with you during your first six weeks at ARU and will agree what you would like our contact to look like going forward (for example, a monthly phone call or email check in, a less regular check in, or us simply emailing you any updates to the support).

We will give you information and advice about a range of support and can refer you to other specialist services if relevant and with your consent. We are here to support you through your ARU journey and you can always get in touch with us using our dedicated email address We will be happy to help.

The Student Experience Team is made up of:

Jamie Carson

Jamie Carson
Student Experience Manager

Elly Page

Elly Page
Student Experience Coordinator,

Nicki Sinclair

Nicki Sinclair
Student Experience Coordinator,

Elly will be your main point of contact if you study in Cambridge and Nicki will be your main contact if you study in Chelmsford or Peterborough. However, if you would rather speak to a male, just let us know and we can arrange for Jamie to be your point of contact.

Debbie Barker

Debbie Barker (Student Money Adviser) also supports the Student Experience Team to offer Care Leavers and Care Experienced students advice on any funding related questions. You can contact her using our email address too.

Read more about more about the student experience team.

Telling us your situation


If you have self-disclosed on your UCAS form to let us know that you’re leaving local authority care, or you or your social services team contacted our Outreach team directly, this information will be passed on to us so we can support you as you start your studies at ARU.

ARU Registration Task

When you register to study at ARU, you will be asked whether you are a Care Leaver. If you say yes to this question, our team will receive this data and will make contact with you (please note that this can take up to six weeks but if you would like support sooner, please do email us on

Telling the team at another point in the year

We know that some students don’t feel comfortable declaring that they are a Care Leaver/Care Experienced at the start of the studies as they are worried they will be treated negatively - please be assured that this is not the case at ARU.

However, if you haven’t told us your situation in the ways outlined above and would now like to, please email our team on and we will contact you to discuss the support available. We would love to hear from you!


Living on or close to campus

Care Leavers only

If you’ve been in local authority care on or after your 16th birthday, you'll be eligible for University-managed accommodation throughout your studies in Cambridge and Chelmsford:

As a Care Leaver you are also eligible for 365-day accommodation within University-managed accommodation throughout your studies (regardless of whether you are a September or January starter).

However, this will be made up of two contracts each year – for example for a September starter, this would be made up of an initial let (September-June) and a summer let (June-September).

Although you may be required to move rooms between lets, please be assured that you will not be left without accommodation at any point.

To ensure you are guaranteed a room in your first year, you need to apply for accommodation by 30 June, notify Residential Services that you are a Care Leaver and provide the relevant evidence, and have firmly accepted ARU as your first choice.

If you speak to Residential Services after this date, we will do our best to accommodate you. However, we cannot guarantee a place in ARU-managed accommodation in your first year.

To notify Residential Services of your Care Leaver status, you can either contact the team directly (for the Cambridge campus please email and for the Chelmsford campus: or you can contact the Student Experience Team at who can support you with this.

If you have any questions about accessing accommodation as a Care Leaver at ARU, both the Residential Service Team and the Student Experience Team would be happy to help.

If you are struggling to pay the £300 to secure your ARU accommodation please contact Debbie on or by calling 01245 684288 to discuss if we can defer payment until you receive your student funding.

If you are planning on moving into the private sector, we are unable to move the due date for any deposits, but in exceptional circumstances we may be able to pay any Care Leaver’s Bursary early.

Care Leavers and Care Experienced students

Our Residential Service can also assist you to secure accommodation in the private rented sector.

For more information please email:

Read more about living on or close to campus.


If you decide to commute rather than live on campus, you can find out everything you need to know about planning your route on our Travelling to campus page.

This includes our Student Travel Discounts guide, which explains how to make the most of bus and train discounts across our Cambridge, Chelmsford, and Peterborough campuses.

Pre-arrival transition day

To help support your transition from being an applicant with the Outreach Team, to being a full ARU student with the Student Experience Team, we collaboratively arrange an annual pre-arrival transition day. This is designed to introduce you to our team, explain the support that is available and to link you up with other students at ARU who are Care Leavers/Care Experienced.

If you ticked the box on your UCAS form, you will be automatically invited to the event running just before you start at ARU. If you didn’t tick the box on your UCAS form but are soon to start your studies with ARU and would like to be included in our next event, please email us on

Money support

ARU Care Leaver and Foyer Bursary

Students supported by their Local Authority as a Care Leaver or those who have resided in a Foyer prior to starting the course may be eligible for the Care Leavers Bursary via the Learning Support Fund.

This is a grant of up to £1,500 (£2,000 in final year) which can be applied for once you start your course at ARU. For further information, eligibility criteria and details on how to apply, please visit our Care Leaver and Foyer (Supported Accommodation) page.

Higher Education Bursary

Care Leavers only

At ARU, we have a Student Money Advice Service who can run a “Money MOT” with you to check that you are accessing all of the funding you are entitled to, from your Local Authority and Student Finance England, etc. For example:

Care Leavers starting university should receive a £2,000 Higher Education Bursary from their Local Authority to help with the costs of university life. This will usually be paid in instalments over the duration of your course. All local authorities must pay a bursary to Care Leavers who go on to higher education.

Some local authorities choose to provide further support in excess of this £2,000. This can be in the form of help with housing costs, a weekly allowance, or support towards tuition fees. You are advised to contact your local authority to discuss what support is available and in what form, as this varies between authorities.

The £2,000 Higher Education Bursary is available to any Care Leaver who started a course of higher education on or after September 2008 and before their 25th birthday.

Read more about higher education bursary.

Student Finance

Care Leavers only

Full-time students under 25 are either classed as independent or dependent on their parents'/legal guardian's household income. Students who are married or have dependent children at the start of their course are automatically classed as independent.

Under 25s are usually classed as dependent but, if evidence is supplied that shows that you have spent time in care or are estranged from your parents, you can be assessed as independent which usually means maximum funding.

If you have studied before in Higher Education, you should contact the Student Money Advice Service to discuss the previous study regulations and how this may impact you. Sometimes if you had to leave your previous course due to “Compelling Personal Reasons” you can be granted additional funding.

For further information on what funding is available please see the our Help with finances pages.

Read more about student finance.

Financial support from ARU

Care Leavers only

If you are struggling to pay the £300 to secure your ARU accommodation please contact Debbie on or by calling 01245 684288 to discuss if we can defer payment until you receive your student funding.

If you are planning on moving into the private sector we are unable to move the due date for any deposits but in exceptional circumstances we may be able to pay any Care Leaver’s Bursary early.

Care Leavers and Care Experienced students

We also have Hardship Funds if you find yourself struggling financially during university, Care Leavers and estranged students are a priority for these.

We also have additional funds to help with the cost of diagnostic testing and any costs associated with Disabled Students Allowance, help if you have unpaid placements as part of your course, grants for overseas experiences including study abroad or field trips, as well as an Internship Bursary.

The Student Money Advice Service can advise you on what funding is available, how to apply and what you may receive as well as discussing money management to help make your money go further. Email or by call 01245 686700

Read more about financial support from aru.

Student discounts

As an ARU student, you will be able to apply for a TOTUM card, which offers a range of discounts across a number of retailers.

There are also lots of companies who offer student discounts for various products and services, and you can find out more on our Students’ Union website.

Students' Union Inclusion Fund

Our Students’ Union run a fund with the aim of removing barriers to participation and engagement with Students’ Union activity for any students who may incur extra costs in order to take part. As a Care Leaver, you may be eligible to benefit from it. Find out more about the Inclusion Fund.

Peer Support Network

In January 2021, the Student Experience Team launched the Peer Support Network for Care Leavers and Care Experienced students at ARU. The peer network is called 'Stronger Together', as voted for by the members of the group.

If you would like to find out more or join the group, please email us on

Employability for Care Leavers

Our Employability Team are available to you throughout your studies at ARU and for three years after you graduate. The support they offer includes:

  • A dedicated careers page for care leavers and care experienced students where you will find updates on specific opportunities for you.
  • Employability and Careers Advisers to discuss your future plans – don’t worry, you don’t need to know what you want to do, it’s a chance for you to discuss your situation and find out how they can help you.
  • They offer workshops with a specific focus on Care Leavers based off topics current Care Leavers have said they would find useful such as “Confidence in talking about your strengths” and “staying positive and waving goodbye to imposter syndrome”.
  • An exciting Mentoring at ARU programme which pairs students in 1-2-1 partnerships with volunteer mentors – professionals working in their chosen industries and ready to share their experience with you. Connections between students and their mentors have given fantastic results such as improved confidence and networks for student mentees. Tick the Care Leavers box on the form to help us prioritise your application.


Following feedback from our current students, each month we send out a monthly newsletter summarising the support on offer to Care Leaver and Care Experienced students at ARU.

There is so much on offer, we know this can feel overwhelming, so we use this newsletter to draw attention to specific opportunities, deadlines, events or any other relevant information at key points in the year. This is in addition to any check in phone calls that students may request.

Care Leaver interns

We are committed to supporting our Care Leavers and our Care Experienced students fully throughout their time with us.

Therefore, we hired three Care Leaver interns (current students who are Care Leavers/Care Experienced themselves) to work with us in summer 2021 to review the support on offer, suggest routes forward and to run their own projects to further this work. This has been a really exciting time and has shaped what our support looks like going forward.

One of the key outcomes was the following video written and directed by one of our interns to help raise awareness across staff at ARU:

Watch our 'Support for Care Leaver and Care Experienced Students at ARU' video

We are committed to supporting our Care Leavers and Care Experienced students and are keen to work with current students to continually improve our offering. If you have any ideas of other areas you would like us to explore, please email us on

Become a Care Leaver Student Ambassador

Care Leavers only

At ARU, we have a team of Student Ambassadors and Senior Student Ambassadors that support prospective students who are thinking about applying to ARU or make informed decisions about their future.

Our ambassadors are responsible for supporting our on campus and virtual events by giving an insight into life as a student at ARU. This role is paid and flexible to fit around your studies and supports you in developing your skills in public speaking, delivering subject sessions and communicating with a range of students from different backgrounds.

We are seeking Care Leaver students to join our Care Leaver Ambassador team to help support students making their application to ARU and by creating a reassuring and encouraging transition to university.

If you’re interested in becoming a Student Ambassador, register with ARU Temps and then email

After you graduate

Upon graduating, you will automatically become a member of our Alumni Network, where you and you will receive a range of benefits and services, including lifelong career support, discounts on further study, access and discounts to ARU facilities, and more.

Other support at ARU

As well as the support specific to Care Leavers and Care Experienced students at ARU, you can also access all of the general support on offer to all students at ARU:

  • Student Services – this includes the Counselling and Wellbeing Services, the Disability and Dyslexia Service, the Employability Team and the Welcome Buddy Scheme – and lots more!
  • Students’ Union – this includes their Advice Service and all of their clubs and societies – and lots more!

Support external to ARU

As well as the support available at ARU, there is also support available through various charities set up specifically for Care Leavers and Care Experienced people.

  • Become – the charity for children in care and young Care Leavers.
  • The Rees Foundation – a charity whose aim is to help Care Experienced people thrive by offering them support throughout their whole life.
  • The Care Leavers Foundation – an organisation that offers support, encouragement, and financial assistance to Care Leavers.
  • The Capstone Care Leavers Trust – awards grants to people aged 17-25 years who have been in Local Authority Care in England or Wales and are in need. They also offer advice and guidance.
  • Family Action Listening Works Service – a national out of hours phone, web and text support service for care experienced young adults aged 18-30. Listening Works is open 7 days a week from 6pm to midnight, staffed by trained volunteers with paid and experienced supervisors on the line with them.