Supporting Care-Experienced People into Higher Education

Forthcoming book:

Colvin, E. & Knight, E. (2023) Education and Career Disruptors for Care-Experienced Young People. Palgrave Macmillan

Project overview

Researchers are undertaking novel discovery work about career information and support gaps for care-leavers relating to their entry to higher education. The findings will provide universities with greater understanding about information barriers to higher education for care-leavers and increase understanding in career development practitioners about the needs of care-experienced young people.

Care-leavers have experienced removal from their parental home during childhood. This may be as a result of neglect, abuse, death of family members or inability of family members to care for them. When removed, children may stay with relatives in a kinship care arrangement, foster care or residential care, e.g. a group home.

A significant body of research demonstrates that care-leavers are less likely to attain educational qualifications, less likely to have good health, and are more likely to have contact with the criminal justice and mental health systems. Their participation rates in higher education are low; care-experienced school leavers are three-times less likely to enrol. Those who do enter higher education face significant challenges from childhood trauma that may adversely affect their studies.

A major Australian piece of research found that there was a 'lack of formal assistance and information when applying for university' (Harvey et al 2017). This study aims to explore the knowledge universities have of the challenges for care-leavers and what specific support is available for them.

Contact us to find out more.

Project design

The first discovery phase of the project will involve a desktop scan of Australian specific resources produced for care-leavers entering higher education, which will be used to produce the infographic. This phase will also include data collection of government policy and practices (including related to funding of tertiary courses) and any publicly available statistics. A Website will host publically available information on the project.

The second discovery phase will be conducting interviews with approximately 12 equity and diversity staff at Australian universities. A cross-section of universities will be chosen for the study, which will include representatives from Group of Eight universities, regional universities and suburban based universities. This will allow a basis for comparison of support provided to students across different types of universities. Topics to be explored in the interviews include; Knowledge of participants of the complex needs of careexperienced people, support offered to care-experienced students, and any existing initiative of their organization to attract care-experienced children, e.g. scholarships.

A further 5 interviews will be undertaken with organisational representatives who provide support in the community to care-leavers, e.g. Create Foundation. Topics canvassed in the interviews will include barriers to higher education for care-leavers and the needs of these students

Project reference group

Our project is supported by a project reference group who meet bi-annually to give feedback and receive reports on project progress.

Project collaborators

Academic project team

The research team includes researchers based in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia.

  • Dr Emma Colvin - Charles Sturt University (ecolvin @

  • Dr Lizzie Knight - Centre for International Research on Education Systems, Victoria University (lizzie.knight @

  • Louise Nolan - Centre for International Research on Education Systems, Victoria University (louise.nolan @

  • Dr Melissa Tham - Centre for International Research on Education Systems, Victoria University (melissa.tham @

Project reference group

The project team worked with a project reference group which draws on expertise from organisations who support care experienced young people, higher education researchers and careers education experts.

Contact us to find out more.

Project funding

This project is funded by a number of organisations:

  • Collier Fund

  • Charles Sturt University

  • CREATE Foundation

  • Career Industry Council of Australia

Last updated 17.01.2022