Attracting and supporting care leavers from low socio-economic status backgrounds in higher education

Year: 2016

Author: Harvey, Andrew, Wilson, Jacqueline, Campbell, Perri, Adrewartha, L

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


This collaborative, national research project aims to help universities attract and support care leavers - people who have spent time in foster care, kinship care, and other types of out-of-home care. The under-representation of care leavers in Australian higher education is well-documented. Care leavers experience severe educational disadvantage and are disproportionately likely to come from low socio-economic status, regional, and Indigenous backgrounds. Care leavers have very high rates of homelessness, unemployment, and dependence on Centrelink. Unlike in the United Kingdom and the United States, few Australian universities provide dedicated resources or programs for care leavers.This research project, funded by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training, builds the evidence base around care leavers in higher education. The project produces the first Australian model for cross-institutional tracking of university care leaver students and their experiences and educational outcomes. The research applies mixed methods. The quantitative element of the research analyses administrative data. The primary data stems from semi-structure in-depth interviews with care leaver students at four Australian Universities. In consultation with community sector organisations, the project team is developing guidelines for university staff and students to deliver more effective outreach and support to care leavers.