The Impact of Stigma, Placement Instability and Individual Motivation on Successful Transitions in and Through University for Care Experienced Young People

  • Gemma AllnattEmail author


The Department of Education estimates that somewhere between 6–12% of young people leaving local authority care enter some form of higher education (Department for Education, 2007). This is compared to a general figure of about 49% for those who are raised within more traditional birth-families. The former statistic is alarmingly low and presents a damning indictment of the abilities of, and opportunities afforded to, young people within the care system. If we accept that education is key to social mobility and provides protection against social exclusion, then social care and educational professionals need to encourage and inspire greater educational achievement for this group. Much of what is known about ‘high achievers’ in the care system is evidenced in the research undertaken by Jackson and colleagues (Ajayi & Quigley, 2006; Jackson, The education of children in care. University of Bristol, 1987). They stress the value of gaining higher-level qualifications in securing well-paid and fulfilling employment within a competitive labour market. Therefore, the aim of this chapter is to explore the barriers and enablers that allow or prevent the successful transition to higher education for young people. The data presented is drawn from a doctoral study of young people with a care background who subsequently attended university. Drawing on a case study approach, the chapter will explore the account of one undergraduate student who spent a significant part of her later childhood in foster care. From this analysis, recommendations will be made in relation to improving current policy and practice.


Care leavers Care system Higher education Significant adults Extra-curricular activities 



I would like to thank all the participants who took part in this study. Without their valuable contribution, this research would not have been possible. I also extend my gratitude to the All Wales Social Care Collaboration Academy (ASCCA) and Cardiff University for funding and sponsoring the project.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Cardiff UniversityCardiffWales

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