Accessibility statement

F. Alison Walters (née Inceu)

MA Social Research (University of York), MSc Social Policy and Social Research (University College London), BA International Affairs (The George Washington University USA)

PhD student 


Thesis supervisor

Thesis topic

The Barriers to Higher Education Faced by Care Leavers: A Focus on the Mental Health Provision Available to Care Leavers in the Transition to Higher Education

Thesis summary

Care leavers (young people who have transitioned out of the care system), are disproportionately under-represented in higher education, as compared both to the wider population and other vulnerable groups. My research aims to address this disparity by analysing the mental health support available to young people in care as they make the transition to higher education. Current research indicates the significance of the transitional period between GCSEs and university to care leavers educational attainment, and has already established the importance of sound mental health to educational attainment. 

As a qualitative researcher, I aim to consolidate evidence on the mental health support, and its quality, available to young people in care as they prepare to take the next step on their educational pathway. I consequently plan to conduct interviews with care leavers and professionals working within children’s social care to gain a better understanding of the mental health support available to this group of young people, and to understand the informal sources of support care leavers turn to when structured support is unavailable. My research is conducted on the premise that responsive, high-quality mental health support will allow a greater number of care leavers to make a successful transition to higher education. 


General research interests

My research interests concern the life outcomes of care-experienced people (CEP, or care leavers) in England and the barriers they experience to higher education. In particular, I focus on CEP’s experiences of aspiration, hope, and self-esteem, and the effect these have on young people’s educational and professional outcomes. I am also interested in care leavers’ experiences of stability.

I have been privileged to be a research assistant to Jo Dixon on a project aiming to understand 'the need' in terms of care leavers' engagement with further education and professional pathways in York and North Yorkshire. 

  • Leaving care
  • Youth transitions
  • Barriers to higher education 
  • Wider participation & contextualised admissions
  • Mental health
  • Resilience
  • The maladaptive consequences of resilience
  • Stability and subjective experiences of stability
  • The localised support available to care leavers
  • Qualitative research methods
  • Cross-sector research
  • Intersection of social work and social policy


I teach on 'Exploring Social Policy and Social Justice' in the school. 


The education journeys of young people leaving care in York and North Yorkshire

Conference presentation

Inceu, A. 2015. Local Perspectives on the Evolution and Challenges Facing the Child Protection System of Cluj County, Romania. The Fourth Euroacademia Forum of Critical Studies: Asking Big Questions Again, 2015, Lucca, Italy.


Having completed my undergraduate studies at The George Washington University in the United States, I relocated to England in 2015. 
I began my research in the field of foster care at The George Washington University. Here I wrote my senior undergraduate thesis on the deinstitutionalisation of Romanian's 'mammoth'-style institutions, based on interviews with child social care professionals in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Subsequently, I moved to London and completed an MSc in Social Policy & Social Research at University College London (UCL). It is at UCL that I consolidated my passion for the lived experience of care-experienced young people in England, where I wrote my dissertation on care leavers' experiences of subjective stability. My interest in the lives of young people and children, and in particular their transitions to adulthood, has permeated my academic journey, as well as my 'on the ground' experiences working and volunteering in the charity and education sectors.  
I received an MA in Social Research from the University of York in 2020 and am currently an ESRC-funded doctoral researcher in the department. My work focuses on mental health and the barriers to higher education faced by care leavers.

Other roles

I have been privileged to work with Jo Dixon in the school, seeking to understand the educational journeys of care-experienced young people in York and North Yorkshire.

Contact details

Alison Inceu
PhD student
School for Business and Society