Higher Education: Researching Around Care Leavers Entry and Success (HERACLES)

Project start: September 2016
Project end: November 2016
Project team:  Dr Neil Harrison

Funder: National Network for the Education of Care Leavers

Project summary

The project aims to provide a new understanding of the pathways of young people who have spent time in the care of their local authority (ie care leavers) into and through higher education.  It will take a comparative approach, using regression analysis to contrast the experiences of care leavers with (a) a wider population of disadvantaged young people, and (b) young people in general.  The purpose is to identify the extent to which care leavers are disadvantaged in terms of access to higher education. It will identify factors which promote or hinder progression to higher education and identify whether care leavers need additional support within university and the nature of the need. The outcome will be to provide practitioners with analysis that will help to improve the services that they offer to young people, foster carers and local authorities.

Research questions

  1. What are the social and educational attributes of care leavers who do enter higher education?
  2. Do care leavers enter higher education with the same propensity as other disadvantaged groups – eg those receiving free school meals and/or from deprived areas?
  3. How do higher education completion rates for care leavers compare with other disadvantaged groups?
  4. For what reasons do care leavers withdraw from higher education and are these similar to the reasons given by other students?
  5. What are the social and educational attributes of care leavers who successfully complete higher education and how do these compare to those who do not complete?
  6. What are care leavers experiences of applying for, entering and continuing in higher education?
  7. What support services do they access through their university or elsewhere?
  8. What additional support do they feel could offered to support their retention and success in higher education?

Project strands

The project will use a two strand approach:

  • Strand 1 will comprise a multivariate statistical analysis of linked data available from the National Pupil Database and the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
  • Strand 2 will comprise an online questionnaire with current students who are care leavers.

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