The Unite Foundation delivers a unique university accommodation scholarship for care leavers and estranged students across the UK.
About the charity
The Unite Foundation is an independent registered charity offering a unique accommodation scholarship for care leavers and estranged young people at university. The scholarship takes care of students’ accommodation and bills, covering up to 3 full years of study. The charity currently works with 26 universities across England and Scotland, and the team works closely with Unite Students; the charity’s accommodation partner and principal corporate donor.
The charity has awarded 514 scholarships since 2012, and 185 Unite Foundation graduates are pursuing their dreams!
You can now apply to join the Unite Foundation scholarship in September 2022. Click here to find out all you need to know and to apply online.
If you work for one of our partner universities or with young people who might benefit from the scholarship, you can print out this poster and put it up in your office or building and help spread the word.
Fiona Ellison = Director
Fiona is the Director of the charity and drives our strategic ambition working closely with the Board of Trustees and partners across a range of sectors. She is leading the growth of our scholarship provision in collaboration with new university and funding partners, alongside our impact evaluation. If you’d like to work together to increase the number of scholarships we deliver and create a home at university for more young people who have been in care or are estranged from their family, Fiona would love to hear from you.
Fiona currently lives in Wiltshire but moves around a lot given her second life that comes with being married into the army. When she’s not dodging tanks she loves cooking, attempting to run and trying to get nursery rhymes out of her head!
Helen Arber = Head of Operations
Helen heads up our operations which encompasses finance & quality assurance, employment partnerships, student community and of course our scholarship. She works with our university, accommodation and charity partners to ensure our support for the young people we work with is the best it can be. If you have bespoke employment opportunities for students or a view on how our charitable operations can be enhanced, please drop her a line.
Helen’s favourite place is a greenhouse with a cuppa and some seedlings.
Beki Rymsza = Head of Brand + Communications
Beki heads up the charity’s brand and communications; underpinning our strategic ambition, raising awareness of our work and leading on campaign activity to affect change for all estranged and care experienced students, working with the This is Us campaign group. Get in touch with Beki you’d like to support us in raising awareness of the scholarship, would like to get involved in our campaign work or have a press enquiry.
Beki loves a strong cup of Yorkshire Tea.
Laura Bowman = Co-ordinator
Laura will be the person you speak to most if you’re a student on the scholarship, she works closely with our university and accommodation partners to make sure everyone feels welcome and safe at home. Laura will help get you settled in and check in with you along the way to make sure everything is ok. She has brilliant relationships with the university and accommodation teams and is always on hand to support you.
Laura lives in Aberdeen and enjoys making fictional plans to renovate chateaus in sunnier climates! When she’s not dreaming of sunny renovations, she enjoys exercise and learning about health, fitness and nutrition.
Dot Hakim = Student-Led Community Manager
Dot is working directly with young people to lead the development of our community engagement strategy; helping to facilitate the growth of a student-led, inclusive and cohesive community for all care experienced and estranged young people at university.
Engagement with our student community will inform service delivery and policy making and Dot will be supporting the This is Us campaign group to identify opportunities for action. If you’d like to talk about anything student-community centred, Dot would like to hear from you.
Dot lives in Northumberland and loves wild swimming, big dogs, snail-mail, nature walks, reading and pretending she can sing like Cher in the bathroom mirror with a toothbrush-microphone.
Safiyyah Hanif = Communications + Content Executive
Safiyyah works across all our communications activity and ensures seamless delivery of campaigns, audience engagement and brand communications. Safiyyah also works closely with students on the scholarship who form the wider communications team to both lead and support them to deliver digital content and campaigns. If you’re a Unite Foundation student keen to get involved in social media and marketing, or have ideas for content or campaigns, Safiyyah would love to hear from you.
Safiyyah loves reading fiction novels, writing poetry, hiking and dancing to Taylor Swift.
Shân Wareing: Chair
Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Northampton
I believe the opportunities that higher education offers should be open to everyone. The Unite Foundation contributes to the levelling up agenda and scholars are in a position to influence decision making and change – maybe they will be our future leaders and decision makers. When policy makers are representative of the wider population and can make decisions that recognise the needs and contributions of all parts of society, that is when we will see transformation in the way society functions.
It’s a really exciting time for the Unite Foundation, as we look at ways we can extend our influence and improve the journey through university for all estranged and care experienced students, not just those for whom we can provide homes while they study.
Founding Partner, Parametric Global Consulting
I am immensely proud to be a Trustee of the Unite Foundation and involved with a cause that is close to my heart. The provision of accommodation throughout the calendar year lifts a burden from the shoulders of estranged and care experienced students and means there is one less thing to worry about.
Estranged and care experienced students are often the forgotten ones. I will work with my fellow board members to raise awareness about the challenges these students face and encourage others within the HE community to join us in supporting them in practical and impactful ways.
Associate Editor, WonkHE
Higher Education has had a transformative impact on my life, and I have seen first-hand the transformative power students from diverse backgrounds have on the sector. The Unite Foundation works towards liberation and opportunity for estranged and care experienced young people on an individual level as well as striving to improve society as a whole.
I will be a vocal and visible person who comes from that demographic, focussing on the need for representation. We must always ask ourselves; “who is not here?” then, “who is not speaking?” and then, “who is not being listened to?”. These are the voices I will continue to seek out and amplify.
Director, Harrison, Mayer & Mayer
The importance of a continuous and stable home, whilst studying, cannot be overstated; at the Unite Foundation this is combined with individual support from people who understand that just getting into Uni is phenomenal for care leavers and estranged young people and that staying in requires more effort than for most. The social networking elements are great too – I would have loved this when I was at Uni.
I am pleased to be contributing to the support of scholars and will feel proud when I can demonstrate the impact I’ve had through my new role on the board. Watch this space.
I am care-experienced and bring a degree of empathy. I will absolutely listen to our students and seek to understand and address any challenges that are distracting them from feeling settled and able to study.
Director of Membership and Stakeholder Engagement, NHS Resolution
My education took me from local comprehensive to polytechnic, then onto university to gain an MBA – the latter funded by my then employer – making me the first in my family to benefit from a university education. I am passionate about promoting social mobility and, as a member of the LGBT+ community, about social inclusion.
The Unite Foundation has a tremendous track-record of supporting students who will benefit the most from having access to quality, paid-for accommodation throughout their studies, enabling them to get the most from their university experience. I want to help establish relationships with more employers to widen the work experience opportunities available to our scholars.
Head of Fund Management and Tax, Unite Students
I’m passionate about ensuring that all young people can achieve their full potential and that nobody is left behind because of their background. It’s important that estranged and care experienced young people have the choice to go to university and to develop personally and professionally.
Being on the Unite Foundation Board enables me to play a small part in improving access to higher education for estranged and care experienced young people and supporting them to embrace everything that university has to offer.
I will champion the charity within my organisation and the business sector and promote the purpose of the Unite Foundation to colleagues and investors to support the charity in achieving its strategic aims.
Head of Finance Operations, English National Opera
Being a foster carer for several years, I’ve witnessed the adverse impact when young people in society are not supported or listened to. I am passionate about ensuring their voices are heard which leads me to be involved with the Unite Foundation.
Through my experience at UAL, on the Board at Greenwich University SU, I see the benefits of what comes from higher education in a supportive environment. The Unite Foundation delivers support and security that students who are care experienced or estranged from their families need and with 4 applications for every place we can offer, we are working hard to do more to respond to the demand for our scholarship.
It is a privilege to be a member of this Board.
University Engagement Director, Unite Students
I believe that access to higher education and all of the things that lead to a successful university life should not be restricted in any way; having worked in the HE sector for 12 years, I appreciate how transformational university can be.
I listen to Unite Foundation students’ experiences through their communications activity and the This is Us podcast and I feel proud to hear the variety of ways in which support from the Unite Foundation impacts on students’ university experience.
I’m here to champion the Unite Foundation throughout the HE sector and, amongst my colleagues, increase awareness of what Unite Foundation students need and build pride within the organisation as the charity’s principal supporter.
Director of Student Experience, Unite Students
Having helped to set up the Unite Foundation it was a real privilege to have the opportunity to join the board a few years later and to continue to support its success.
I’m proud of the team and what they’ve been able to build and achieve in a relatively short time, and I am super proud of our scholars and all the things they have achieved. I especially love listening to the This Is Us podcast!
It’s really important that we support estranged and care experienced students to make their voices heard and to be influential at the highest level, and I am committed to amplifying their voices in any way I can.
Director, The Bridge Group
I’ve been with the Unite Foundation since 2014 and I’m still learning from students’ diverse experiences and perspectives.
The students are relentlessly impressive, but so too are the staff at the Foundation. It’s unusual to find such a wonderful combination of professionalism, rigour, care and responsiveness. I hope that students feel they are in a partnership with the Charity, where we learn from and advocate for their experiences as well as providing much-needed support.
I am keen that graduate employers are even more in tune with the experiences of estranged and care experienced students, and how postgraduate study can also be made equally accessible to students.
Annual Report 20/21
2020/21 Annual Report and AccountsView
Our Impact Report shares the stories of our scholarship students, identifies new areas of activity and explores how the Foundation can positively influence care leaver and estranged student experience in Higher Education.View
Scholarship Information Poster
If you work for one of our partner universities or with young people who might benefit from the scholarship, you can print out this poster and put it up in your office or building and help spread the word.View
Scholarship Student Survey 2021
This year’s survey explored the legacy of the pandemic on student’s views of university and their home; examined levels of confidence across areas of academic progress, housing, employability and sense of self; looked at graduate destinations and captured thoughts on the impact of the scheme from their perspective.View
Covid-19: An updateJanuary 2021
Almost a year into the pandemic and in a new lockdown, what do estranged and care experienced students need in order to be healthy, happy and academically engaged?View
Responding to Covid-19April 2020
During the first week of the Covid-19 lockdown over 23-27 March 2020, we carried out a UK-wide survey of higher education students who are either care-experienced or estranged.View
Positive ImpactFebruary 2020
What factors affect access, retention and graduate outcomes for university students with a background of care or family estrangement?View
Positive Impact Annex 1View
Positive Impact Annex 2View
Get in touch
If you’d like to hear more from the Unite Foundation you can use the form below to sign up to the newsletter – just add your name, surname and email address, and click to opt in. If you are keen to work with or support the charity, or have any other enquiries, drop the team a message!