Posted on 9 January 2023
In the study, over 20 care-experienced graduates are followed on the journey from their final year in higher education, to 12 months after their graduation.
The research explores the influences that inform decisions on their graduate pathways and destinations, examining the barriers to transitioning out of higher education, including financial hardship, access to housing, accessing support for long-term and complex mental health needs, and an absence of support networks.
Dr Zoe Baker, from the University’s Department of Education, said: “The key concern arising from the study was financial hardship. Many soon-to-be graduates are facing the reduction or complete loss of support from their local authorities due to their age or their local authorities being under-resourced.
“Those who previously received financial support from their higher education institutions, in the form of bursaries and accommodation support, are facing the loss of this once they complete their degree studies.”
There have been substantial developments in the amount and types of support available for care-experienced students in higher education. However, this has not been implemented at the same level for care-experienced graduates to support their transitions onwards.
The study showed that impending loss of or absence of financial support was intertwined with concerns over affording and locating housing in time for graduation. As many care-experienced graduates do not have a family home, they are unable to undergo 'boomerang' or 'yo yo' transitions - where graduates return to live in the family home while they contemplate and prepare for their next steps.
Participants also reported that they had no one to act as a guarantor when trying to access private rented housing. There is therefore an absence of housing safety nets which increases the risk of homelessness.
Dr Baker said that some care-experienced soon-to-be graduates explained the need to “take 'any job', rather than one that was fitting with their ideal careers, to afford basic living costs in the immediate post-graduation period and concerns being exacerbated by the cost of living crisis.”
Managing long-term mental health conditions once in graduate employment, which were often associated with trauma from Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) was also highlighted as a concern due to the workplace being viewed as having fewer safety nets than higher education should care-experienced employees need support.
Dr Baker outlines recommendations for Higher Education Institutions, local authorities, employers and government officials, to support graduates with the cost of living in the immediate post-graduation period, a guarantor scheme to support access to private rented housing, increased awareness and support from employers to facilitate successful transitions into professional roles, and more robust financial support for care-experienced graduates to pursue postgraduate study.
Funded by the British Academy, this is the first project to provide qualitative research attention to care-experienced students' graduate transitions and setting out recommendations to support them.
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Research by Dr Zoe Baker, from the University’s Department of Education has highlighted the financial uncertainty that Care-Experienced graduates face when leaving higher education and transitioning into employment.
Dr Baker outlines recommendations for Higher Education Institutions, local authorities, employers and government officials, to support graduates with the cost of living in the immediate post-graduation period.