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You are reading: Out of care, into university

A study funded by the NCSEHE and undertaken by La Trobe University advocates a framework to increase university access for care leavers – young people who spent time in out-of-home care before the age of 18.

The study, Out of care, into university: Raising higher education access and achievement of care leavers, finds three reforms are required to improve the access and achievement of care leavers in higher education:

  1. The collection of nationally consistent data on higher education access and outcomes for care leavers;
  2. Policy reform within the education and community service sectors including greater recognition of this under-represented student cohort and support for the transition of young people from out-of-home care to adulthood; and
  3. An over-arching need for cultural change that challenges the soft bigotry of low expectations for care leavers.

“Care leavers rarely transition to higher education and are largely excluded from the level of education that brings the highest wage premiums and lifetime rewards,” said principal investigator, Dr Andrew Harvey, Latrobe University.

“Care leavers also receive little financial support beyond the age of 18, and universities have few specific policies to recruit or support them.

“British experience reveals that policy reform can lead to rapid increases in care leaver participation,” said Dr Harvey.

The study, which received funding via the NCSEHE’s 2014 Student Equity in Higher Education Research Grants Program, surveyed senior equity contacts at Australian universities and offers an information base for future policy and research.

Professor Sue Trinidad, NCSEHE Director, emphasised the importance of higher education in addressing social inequality.

“Every young person should be given equal opportunity for education,” Professor Sue Trinidad said.

“I welcome this report and look forward to discussion on the recommendations.”