Education Success Factors and Barriers: Learning from the Experiences of New Zealand Care Leavers Who Went to University

  • Iain MathesonEmail author
Part of the Children’s Well-Being: Indicators and Research book series (CHIR, volume 22)


Education can contribute towards improving the life-chances of children in residential and foster care. Yet, international research has consistently found that most in care face significant educational challenges, many do not receive a quality education, and few go on to university. This chapter reports on a qualitative doctoral study that investigated the experiences of New Zealand care leavers who went to university. While confirming that care leavers from New Zealand can and do go to university, education barriers included significant periods without schooling for some, and a lack of formal support from universities. Nonetheless, participants’ educational experiences suggest the importance of early recreational reading habits, positive school experiences before going to secondary school, any behavioural issues being overcome or accommodated, supportive relationships with school staff, comparatively stable secondary education, final school perceived to be of a high quality, playing to their academic strengths, both traditional and non-traditional pathways to university, and undertaking a vocational degree at a local institution. Implications for research, policy and practice are also discussed.


Care-leaver education outcomes university New Zealand 



I would like to acknowledge the late Emeritus Professor Anne B. Smith, as well as Dr. Gill Rutherford, for comments on an early draft of this material, and their highly valued supervisory support over the course of my doctorate. This chapter has been produced with the assistance of the University of Otago’s Postgraduate Publishing Bursary.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Matheson Associates Limited, Research Centre for Better Outcomes from Fostering and Residential Care (Better Outcomes)CartertonNew Zealand
  2. 2.Massey UniversityWellingtonNew Zealand

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