The university should put forward an expression of interest in signing up to the “National Network for Care Leavers (NNECL,)” quality charter mark. This is not a one-off charter mark which should encourage the university to consistently uphold their commitments to students. The framework will cover the entire student lifecycle from outreach to graduation and onwards. This is especially important for UCLAN as a widening participation university.
The university will be asked to provide evidence from 7 key areas:
“Before your students join you.”
“Your admissions process,”
“Your students wellbeing”
“Culture and Leadership”
“Collaboration and Partnership”
“Your students' success”
We know the university signed the DFE’s Care Leaver’s Covenant which shows they have commitment to Care Leavers; I would like that commitment to be shown to all Care Experienced Students. This Charter mark is recommended by UCAS, which is why despite the cost many universities have already signed it to publicly show their commitment to Care Experienced students.
Being Care Experienced is an intersectional identity. We know that one of the Union’s big focusses this year is mental health. The evidence that UCLAN is looking after the Mental health of Care leavers is extremely important as students from a Care background are 168% more likely to have a mental health condition than their peers without a care background. 76% of them say that access to mental health support influences their decision in which university they choose.
Only 23% of students are open about their care experience so it is important that the university expresses that there is support there without students having to relive their traumatic experiences. It is important that we feel heard which is why it is important that the university signs this mark to show that they are willing to make continuous improvement and have future plans. It is also important that someone with professional experience related to the care experience reviews the institutional culture and leadership to see if the university is an environment suitable for students with a care experienced background to thrive, not just survive. If it is not, then there is someone professional to advise to the university on the appropriate action to take.
As a care experienced student, I know what it feels like to feel alone and unsupported at university, I do not want this to be the case for other students. Everyone has an equal right to education. Given that 3 in five care experienced students received no support whilst applying to higher education, higher education institutions should be asking themselves why the dropout rate if care experienced students is 5.6% higher than non-care experienced students. We worked hard to get it here and we deserve safe, supported, and comfortable enough to stay.
Even though we often need more support, it is important to remember that we are here for the same reason as everyone else. 71% of Care experienced students said they were most looking forward to studying a subject they love at university.