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Care-experienced students in higher education: what we know… and what we don’t --Neil Harrison --Higher Education Research Seminar

posted on 2021-02-03, 15:30 authored by Neil Harrison

Care-experienced students in higher education: what we know… and what we don’t

Dr Neil Harrison, University of Oxford

Held Wednesday, 27 January 2021


Until relatively recently, it was assumed that few people who had spent time ‘in care’ as children would be found in higher education. The legacy of childhood trauma, coupled with social and educational disruption, were felt to be – and indeed are – significant barriers to attainment. However, we now know there are approaching 10,000 care-experienced students in our universities and the number is growing. One-in-four care-experienced adults will participate at some point in their life – much lower than the general population, but higher than the often (mis)quoted 6% figure.

This seminar will draw on a series of studies undertaken since 2016 looking at the lives of care-experienced students, from pre-entry to graduation and into work. We increasingly know a lot about the challenges that they face and the support they need. However, there are still significant gaps in our knowledge – the seminar will reflect on these within a forward research agenda.


Dr Neil Harrison is an associate professor at the University of Oxford and deputy director of the Rees Centre, which specialises in researching educational outcomes for young people in and around the care system.

His interest in care-experienced students in higher education dates from the early 2000s – first as student support professional and latterly as academic. He is a trustee of the National Network for the Education of Care Leavers and currently leads a Nuffield Foundation study on transitions into the labour market. Neil’s edited book Marginalised Communities in Higher Education (with Graeme Atherton) will be published in early 2021.