Digital Impact Report 2021

Unite Foundation Digital Impact Report 2021

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The Unite Foundation.
A registered charity in England + Wales 1147344,
Scotland SC043324.


  • Would this even be a look back on 2020 if we didn’t begin by talking about what are now, actually, precedented times? As we find ourselves in a new year and a new lockdown, it’s impossible not to acknowledge that Covid19 has impacted everything and everyone; us, our partners, our peers, the entire education sector and, of course, the students on the Unite Foundation scholarship.

  • It’s been a year packed with change and we’ve done everything we can to rapidly respond and adjust as needed; working with our charity partners from the outset to understand the impact of the pandemic on our scholarship students and other students from similar backgrounds, putting the right support in place for our scholars and working together with them to bring the big issues to the fore.

  • Unite Foundation graduate, Connor, launched a petition to Michelle Donelan highlighting the need for an emergency grant for students without family support and 4 other scholars met with her to talk about their wider concerns. Our podcast, by and for estranged and care experienced students, launched as the first lockdown started, presenter, Paige, was live on Instagram each evening in March and April for a chat with everyone, and we launched a new social media platform for our scholars across the UK to be able to connect, chat and organise (virtual!) meet ups.

  • One thing that didn’t change though was the scholarship. Whatever is happening in the world our scholars can always feel safe in the knowledge that their home is secure, and they have the support they need from us. A big thank you as ever to our principal donor, Unite Students, for their generous annual donation and to their teams on the ground working alongside us and our university partners to ensure everyone staying in their student accommodation feels safe and supported.

  • We may have been restricted in our geographical movements this year but that hasn’t stopped us and our scholars making movements in other areas. After months in the making, at the end of 2020, we launched This is Us; a community identity for our scholars and all estranged and care experienced students built on the notion of equality – a theme that runs throughout this report.

  • The launch of This is Us marks a step change in how we work and communicate, and we’re really pleased to welcome Fiona Ellison as our new Director who joins us as we embark on this new stage of our journey. We’re excited for what 2021 will bring.

The Numbers

  • 514 scholarships awarded to date + 27 university partners in 13 cities + 80 new scholars welcomed into the scheme in Autumn 2020 + 256 scholars currently at university + 92% of scholars continuing beyond 1st year of study + 13 x 1st class + 26 x 2nd class + 3 x 3rd class degrees + 184 graduates in total now pursuing their dreams + 7 vulnerable students shielded + 450 responses to our COVID-19 survey

  • + 11 keyworkers secure in safe accommodation + 54 gifts for graduates + 962 signatures on Connor’s petition to government + 4 students meet the Minister of State for Universities + 9 students employed on Unite Foundation projects + 11 new podcast episodes = 2020

Money spent…

  • …where it matters most

    £1,672K = homes for scholars

    £90K = research and communications

    £186K = management and governance (9.5%)

Our income

  • £2,995K = income from our principal donor, Unite Students, thank you!

    £94K = earned from our investments

    £731K = drawn down of our cash reserves

    £26K = donations from our fabulous community supporters

  • Community support = personalised moving in packs for all new students + short term storage for graduates making the move into their new homes + birthday cards + graduation gifts as a celebration of everyone’s achievements

  • Like so many charities, we’ve felt the financial impact of Covid19 this year and have taken the difficult decision to suspend scholarship applications for 2021/22 so that we can protect the support for all existing scholars and allow us to get ready for 2022/23.

Levelling the playing field

  • A matter of weeks before we went into our first lockdown we were at the Houses of Parliament, a real life gathering of scholars, universities, charities, service providers, researchers and ministers to launch our research report, ‘Positive Impact?’; exploring the causes of stubborn differential outcomes for care leavers and estranged students.

  • The report underlined that university is transformational, but that bureaucracy, stigma and tight financial resource barriers are large and real - barriers that cause a disproportionate number of students to drop out. It showed that if a care experienced or estranged student was able to stay and complete their course, their outcomes would be as strong as they would be for any other student.

  • Together with our scholars, we’re responding to the findings and:

    + Working to create more scholarship opportunities for estranged and care experienced young people who want to go to university

    + Exploring how all estranged and care experienced students can have equal access to a free guarantor service and in turn access to halls and private student accommodation

    + Addressing preconceptions and misconceptions of estranged and care experienced young people through the This is Us community…

This is Us

  • Well, not us, but the students on the Unite Foundation scholarship.

    In 2020, a team of young people on the scholarship were employed to work with the Unite Foundation and award-winning design agency, Office of Craig, to create a community identity for all Unite Foundation scholars, and other students from similar backgrounds.

  • The creation of this identity along with the handover of our communications channels puts our students in control of their own narrative, with our support.

  • This is Us is a vehicle through which our scholars can communicate their hundreds of individual experiences, perspectives, interests and aspirations. It is also one through which they and we can come together and campaign for the things that matter and will make the journey to and through university better for all estranged and care experienced students.

  • The visual identity is born out of our scholars’ strong belief in equality, and the scholarship giving them a sense of it. We know it’s a piece of a bigger puzzle and we’ll be standing with our scholars and all estranged and care experienced students this year and every year to help level the playing field for everyone.

  • Hear our scholars’ news, views and opinions on what counts via the This is Us podcast and follow @thisisusatuni on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

All Things S=Equal

  • When you’re an estranged or care experienced young person, some opportunities can feel out of reach – opportunities like going to uni. We don’t believe that life choices should be limited because of someone’s background. We believe all things should be equal.

  • We’ve already supported over 500 young people through university, with 80 new students joining us in 2020. Our scholarship covers 3 full years of accommodation at university, including over the Christmas and Summer breaks, and bills are included too.

  • We’re aiming to raise £20,000 to create the opportunity for an additional student to join our scholar community and be united with their future through going to university.

  • On Friday 16th April 2021, watch your favourite film S=Equal and donate £2 to the Unite Foundation to help create more spaces at university for care experienced and estranged young people.

    We won’t judge what you choose to watch.

  • To find out more visit:

    To donate £2, text EQUAL to 70450. Texts cost £2 plus one standard rate message.

  • Now that you’ve finished reading our report, download the This is Us flag; representing the diverse and dynamic estranged and care experienced student community, flanked by the symbol of equality.

    Show your support for all estranged and care experienced students on 16th April and every day by flying this flag.

  • Display it in your room, office, warehouse or window to let everyone know that you think all things should be equal too. Tag us in your flag photos @thisisusatuni #AllThingsSEqual

    If you would like a printed copy of this report - an A2 poster with the report on one side and the flag on the other - drop us an email at and we’ll post one out to you!