Providing a rent-free #HomeAtUniversity for estranged and care experienced students through our nationwide accommodation scholarship.
What do we do?
The Unite Foundation is an independent charity that runs a nationwide accommodation scholarship, supporting estranged and care experienced students with a free #HomeAtUniversity. The scholarship takes care of students’ accommodation and bills for up to 3 years at university. The charity currently works with 31 university partners across England and Scotland, and the team works closely with Unite Students; the charity’s accommodation partner and principal corporate donor, alongside Portal Trust, Astra Foundation and Dulverton Trust.
The charity has awarded 721 scholarships so far, and 293 Unite Foundation graduates are pursuing their dreams.
Find out more about the scholarship and how to apply here. Applications for September 2024 open on 1st January.
Alongside the scholarship, the Unite Foundation is supporting the establishment and growth of a community for ALL estranged and care experienced students and works with the student community to lead campaigns focussed on housing in higher education.
Why all universities should provide estranged and care experienced students with a rent-free #HomeAtUniversity
Students on the Unite Foundation scholarship have always told us how life changing the scholarship has been for them and in 2022, as we turned 10, we commissioned JISC to carry out an independent comparative analysis of a decade worth of data.
The research found strong evidence that our scholarship positively impacts student progression, completion rates and degree outcomes.
+ Unite Foundation students stay on course
Scholarship students progressed from 1st to 2nd year of study at the same rate as non-care leaver students.
+ Unite Foundation students get their degrees
Scholarship students completed their degree closer to the rate of non-care leavers.
+ Unite Foundation students get ‘good honours’ degrees
Scholarship students were within 3 percentage points of non-care leaver students in getting 1st or 2:1 class degrees.
In other words, providing a free #HomeAtUniversity for care experienced and estranged students works.
Read the full report with executive summary, methodology and detailed findings here.
Celebrating 10 years of the Unite Foundation
In 2022 we also published – and captured this evidence – in our 10 year anniversary book; a celebration of every student that has been to university on the Unite Foundation scholarship. Dannii Jones, a scholarship student who, in 2022, graduated from UWE with a 1st Class degree in Photography was commissioned to apply her distinctive photographic style to the theme of ‘Home’; the thread that runs throughout all of our work.
Dannii travelled the country photographing and interviewing our scholarship students. These portraits feature in the book and form part of a travelling exhibition that has toured universities across the UK over our anniversary year. These portraits also formed part of her final year project.
If you’d like to order a hard copy and read the book in full, drop us an email and we can pop one in the post.
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, 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 an interest in data on student outcomes 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. Get in touch with Beki if 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.
Laura Bowman = Scholarship Scheme Manager
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.
Ira Hakim = All of Us Programme Manager
Ira is working with care experienced and estranged students across the UK to lead the development of our community engagement strategy; helping to facilitate the growth of an inclusive community for all care experienced and estranged people in higher education. Find out more at AllofUs.uk
Engagement with our community will inform service delivery and policy making, and Ira will be supporting the student community to identify opportunities for action and activism. If you’d like to talk about anything student-community centred, Ira would like to hear from you.
Ira loves the outdoors, folk music, reading and dogs.
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.
Social Media and Data Management Consultant
The Unite Foundation holds a very special place in my heart, after being awarded the scholarship back in 2018 to pursue my dream of further education. Joining the board allows me to provide a real-life perspective of how the Unite Foundation can support as many estranged and care leavers as possible.
I love to support the board in making crucial decisions that influence students being able to have higher education so that they have the best start to making a difference in the world.
Being a champion and ally is extremely important to me as a trustee. I want to ensure the experiences, stories and lives of these students are at the forefront of our decision making. I also want to ensure that issues faced by care experienced and estranged students such as accommodation, finances, community engagement and mental health are highlighted and help to instigate change across HE.
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.
Policy Adviser, HM Treasury
HE should be accessible for all, and I want to raise awareness of the experiences of estranged and care experienced students at university, as it is an issue not talked about often enough.
I want to ensure we help as many estranged and care experienced students as possible, while also focusing on those with disabilities, as that can often put additional pressure on finding accommodation and costs of studying. My personal experience of estrangement has further driven me to want to help achieve the Unite Foundation’s mission.
The Unite Foundation is one of the only charities solely for estranged and care experienced students who are a really underrepresented group in HE. Even just raising awareness of the issue is a big step but providing accommodation also lifts a primary burden faced by estranged and care experienced students.
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 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.
Chief Operating Officer, Ballet Rambert
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.
As a previous Director at the University of Arts London and as Chair of the Finance Committee at Greenwich University SU, I have seen the benefits of what comes from higher education and the importance of a support network. Our scholarship gives students the security that comes from free, year-round accommodation at university, and we work closely with our university and accommodation partners to deliver wrap-around support.
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, 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.
Head of Quality and Standards, Unite Students
I am a staunch believer that every young person who wants to access higher and further education should have the opportunity to do so. Care leavers and estranged students at times don’t know that further and higher education could possibly even be an option. The Unite Foundation provides a light and an element of control and choice surrounding their future pathway.
I want all estranged and care experienced young people to be aware of the opportunities and support that they can reach out to. I also want to see their needs reflected in the broader student experience; the perspective these students bring to the HE sector and any working environment is invaluable to ensure inclusivity is truly at the heart of decision making.
10th birthday Impact Evaluation
A summary of the Jisc data analytics report with foreword from Fiona Ellison, DirectorView
Jisc Data Analytics
A quantitative impact
analysis on 10 years of
Unite Foundation accommodation support
for estranged and care
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
OFS EORR Implementation SummaryView
Join our Board of Trustees
The Unite Foundation is a charity that runs a nationwide scholarship scheme, supporting estranged and care experienced students with the provision of a rent-free home at university.
Our mission is to ensure estranged and care experienced students have a safe and secure home at university, enabling them to make the most of their time there and complete their degree. Our vision is that that rent-free accommodation for estranged and care experienced students is provided as standard support across all UK universities.
Working with over 30 universities across England and Scotland, we’ve awarded scholarships to over 700 care leavers and estranged young people, but there is potential and ambition to do so much more. The demand for our scholarship exceeds the support we are able to provide with four applicants for each place we have; as well as having 20+ universities on our waiting list.
In 2022 we commissioned a major piece of research to understand the impact of the scholarship and we now have strong evidence that the scholarship helps estranged and care experienced students to progress all the way through university and complete their degree at almost the same rate as any other student.
In other words, what we do works.
Join us as we set out to significantly expand the scholarship and build the case for a free #HomeAtUniversity for all estranged and care experienced students.
We would benefit from people with expertise in youth engagement, data & insight or policy influencing. We welcome interest from people who have lived experience of care or estrangement and would actively encourage people who have never held Trustee roles to apply.
Our scholarship population is overly representative in all areas where the mainstream student population is under-representative; including disability, mental health, class, race, ethnicity, faith, gender and sexuality. Currently the rich and diverse nature of our student population is not fully reflected in our Board.
If you’d like an informal conversation about the role please reach out to Fiona Ellison, Director via firstname.lastname@example.org
Please send a copy of your CV and cover letter, each no more than 2 pages, outlining your interest in the role and your relevant skills and experience to email@example.com
Deadline for applications is 5pm on Monday 30th October
Online interviews will be held on 14th November
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!