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Support for care-experienced students

At the University of Sunderland, we aim to make sure that anyone leaving care has the same full, immersive and enjoyable time studying at university as any other student. Our We Care Team are here to help you as and when you need us, starting right now.

If you are a care-experienced student, then our We Care Team can help

We understand that as a care-experienced person, you may have additional questions and concerns so we have a dedicated We Care Team who can offer individual, bespoke support to any care experienced young person considering Higher Education. 

Wendy Price, Head of Widening Access and Participation, is our dedicated contact for care experienced students and is assisted by Lauren, Safeenah and Jess. The We Care Team can offer individual, bespoke support whenever you need it. Any contact is kept confidential and your choices are respected at all times.

We can provide personalised support based on your individual needs. This could include the following:

  • Accompany you to university events such as Open Days, individual tours, Applicant Days, interviews and graduation
  • Liaise with Local Authority staff or your support workers. With your consent, we can speak to your Personal Advisor, support worker or carers about the support we offer. We can even attend or contribute to your Personal Education Plan (PEP) meetings, if you want us to.
  • Act as a central point of contact for you throughout your studies, supporting you with any issues or concerns you might have. You can meet with us one-to-one for a coffee and a chat, or contact us via phone, email or Microsoft Teams. We can offer support every day that the University is open.
  • Meet with you at the start of each academic year whether you're new to the University or new to our support


We offer support with the following:

  • Guaranteed accommodation 52 weeks a year
  • Student finance and funding
  • Employment and part-time work
  • Academic queries such as taking time out of your course
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Accessing the ‘We Care’ bursary of £2,000 for each year of study

A logo stating that we are a Care Leaver Covenant Gold signatory memberA logo that reads

96% of students who received support from the We Care Team* rate our support as good or very good.

*Data from 51 respondents to University of Sunderland We Care Survey 2022.

Our award winning team

Dedicated support for you

At the University of Sunderland, we have adopted the broader definition of ‘care-experienced,’ as this term is inclusive of the range of care settings someone may have experienced.

Our definition of care-experienced is someone who, at any stage of their life, and for any length of time, has been in care e.g. looked after by the Local Authority. This includes the following:

  • Spent time in the care of the Local Authority (e.g. foster care or children’s home)
  • Been privately fostered
  • Been ‘looked after at home’ under a supervision order
  • Been in kinship care (where a friend or family member becomes the foster carer). Kinship care can be through a formal arrangement, recognised by the Local Authority, and could be prior to a Special Guardianship Order.

We respect your confidentiality. Our small team are the only people who will contact you about being care-experienced. No one else within the University will be informed unless you choose to tell them.

If you are care-experienced, but your personal circumstances do not match any of the criteria outlined above, please contact the We Care Team at care.contact@sunderland.ac.uk or call 0191 515 2216 for further guidance.

Your studies and exams

Studying at university can be challenging but rewarding, so we know that you may experience feeling overwhelmed from time to time during your studies. We can help you throughout any particularly stressful or difficult times by:

  • Meeting up for a coffee. Sometimes you just need to take a break and have a chat with a friendly face who will listen.
  • Speaking to your tutor or Programme Leader on your behalf if you want us to
  • Signpost you to relevant support services who can offer support

Graduation and beyond

Our support doesn’t end when you graduate. We’re here to help with your next steps including everything from interview preparation to finding accommodation if you need it. Just get in touch and we’ll be there to help you every step of the way.

Graduation

We can offer you support in the run up to and on the day of your graduation ceremony. Just let us know how we can help. We will cover the cost of your graduation gown and photo package, and even attend your academic awards ceremony to see you graduate, if you would like us to. We’ll also contact you a few weeks before your graduation to check whether you need any support from us.

Dedicated Careers and Employability Support

Sunderland Futures are here to support you with careers and employability advice. Whether you are looking for graduate opportunities or a part-time job over the summer, get in touch and we can refer you for one-to-one support from the team.

Financial support

We understand that some students may encounter money worries at some point during their studies, but you’re not alone.

You may be entitled to:

We Care Bursary

If you are care experienced and either a UK full-time undergraduate student, or a student studying a full-time taught postgraduate course, then you could be eligible for the We Care bursary of £2,000, based on progression to the next level of your course. This will be paid in four instalments of £500 throughout the year, for each year you study with us. Your status is kept confidential and you apply directly through the We Care Team for this bursary. You can apply at any point in the year, contact us to find out more.

For further information please contact the We Care Team on 0191 515 2216 or email care.contact@sunderland.ac.uk.

University of Sunderland Scholarships

We have a range of scholarships available, so get in touch if you need any help or advice in understanding what you may be entitled to. Find out more about what scholarships and bursaries we offer.

For further information or advice, please contact our Scholarships and Bursaries Team on 0191 515 2865 or by email at scholarships@sunderland.ac.uk.

Local Authority Support

If you are supported by your Local Authority then they can provide you with a minimum support package of £2,000 for the duration of your Higher Education course. Many Local Authorities will provide you with more support – it can be useful to ensure you have this agreed in writing.

University Hardship Loan (UK Students)

This is a university fund to help UK students who face unexpected costs, higher than expected costs, or face serious financial problems for other reasons. Applications can be made once you have enrolled. You will need to provide supporting evidence for your application to be considered for an award. Priority groups of students for assistance from the fund include students with children, students who are unable to work, and final year students experiencing financial difficulties.

For further information or advice, please contact our Student Financial Guidance Team on 0191 515 2284 or email at studentfinancialguidance@sunderland.ac.uk.

  • NNECL are a national charity, established by higher education institutions and national organisations committed to the progression and support of care leavers in Higher Education. NNECL’s website aims to provide information on the range of activities taking place across the country to inspire and inform care leavers about Higher Education. It can really help those who are starting to consider Higher Education and want to find out more.

    Find out more about the NNECL or visit their Twitter page.

    National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL)
  • In April 2022, the University achieved the NNECL Quality Mark, a developmental accreditation process which supports Higher and Further Education institutions to achieve the best outcomes for their care-experienced students. The mark highlights any areas of enhanced or exceptional practice, with a strong focus on mental health and wellbeing.

    The University was rated as 'exceptional' in all seven areas of the Quality Mark assessment – the highest possible rating – following its submission, becoming the first university to be awarded the highest rating.

    National Network for the Education of Care Leavers (NNECL) Quality Mark
  • Become is a voice for young people in care. Everything they do is designed to improve the day-to-day experience of children and young people in care – and their future lives. Become also host the Propel website which has details of support for care leavers available at all UK universities and FE colleges which offer Higher Education provision. It’s free and will provide a wealth of information at your fingertips.

    Find out more about Become or visit their Twitter page.

    Become
  • Stand Alone supports adults who are estranged from their family or children. They have specific support for students who can sometimes have issues providing evidence of their family estrangement, who are at risk of homelessness in the summer months or are worried about life after graduation. The University has signed the Stand Alone Pledge, outlining our commitment to supporting estranged students.

    Find out more about Stand Alone or visit their Twitter page.

    Stand Alone
  • The Care Leaver Covenant is a promise made by the private, public and voluntary sectors to provide support for care leavers aged 16-25 to help them to live independently. The aim is to provide additional support for those leaving care, making available support and expertise to aid care leavers to successfully move forward to the next phase of their lives.

    Find out more about the Care Leaver Convenant or visit their Twitter page.

    Care Leaver Covenant
  • Coram Voice will help you with any questions if you are in care, leaving care, have or need a social worker. They can assist in ensuring care-experienced people know their rights.

    Find out more about Coram Voice or visit their Twitter page.

    Coram Voice
  • Estranged and Care Experienced Students (EaCES) provide a space that signposts to support and guidance that is accessible to our community in all areas of their lives, with a particular focus on supporting access to further and Higher Education. They are a peer support platform by and for students who are estranged, care experienced, care leavers, orphaned and at risk of/wishing to become estranged. 

    Find out more about EaCES or visit their Twitter page.

    Estranged and Care Experienced Students (EaCES)
  • The CLA works with care leavers over the age of 16 and is run by care leavers for care leavers. Their work includes user-led support such as mentoring; projects for young people; training and assessment; advice, information and signposting; and research, policy and campaigns.

    Find out more about the CLA or visit their Twitter page.

    Care Leavers' Association (CLA)

Useful contacts

We are working with Higher Education providers, Local Authorities and charities across the country to raise the profile of care-experienced students and ensure we offer the best support possible.