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 Foundation works with 27 universities across England and Scotland, and the team works closely with Unite Students; the charity’s accommodation partner and principal corporate donor.

The Foundation has awarded 514 scholarships since 2012, and 185 Unite Foundation graduates are pursuing their dreams!

In light of Covid-19, applications for the 2021/22 academic year are closed, enabling us to protect the support for our existing scholars. We look forward to accepting applications in January 2022 for anyone looking to join the scholarship in September 2022. If you would like more information about applying for 2022/23, please get in touch and we will be happy to help.

The team

Fiona Ellison = Director

Fiona is the Director of the charity and works closely with our university, accommodation and charity partners to ensure we provide the best support possible to the young people we work with. In collaboration with the team and Board of Trustees Fiona sets the strategic direction of the Unite Foundation and reports on the charities achievements and impact. If you would like to talk about strategic opportunities or policy change drop Fiona an email.

Beki Rymsza = Brand + Communications

Beki heads up the charity’s brand and communications; if you need anything related to brand, communications and campaigns, or have a press enquiry, drop her a line. If you’re a Unite Foundation student keen to get involved in social media and marketing, or have ideas for content or campaigns, Beki would love to hear from you.

Helen Arber = Head of Operations

Helen heads up the scholarship scheme as well as delivering partnership projects and professional development opportunities for students on the scholarship. If you want to become a partner or fund a scholarship, learn more from our students or have an opportunity to offer, Helen would love to talk to you.

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. Laura will help get you settled into your new home 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. 


Shân Wareing: Chair

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.

Ian Adams

Ian Adams

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.

Fiona Slaven

Fiona Slaven

Director of Finance, Arts Students’ Union




Working at UAL’s Students’ Union and as foster carer for a number of years, I know how important it is that young people in society feel they can speak for themselves; at the Unite Foundation, the students lead the way.


Our 3 year commitment to scholarship students means young people can access opportunities in higher education that they may not have thought possible, but we can do more.


We currently have 4 applicants for every place we can offer and we’re working on doing more to respond to the demand for our scholarship as well as changing the face of our board to be representative of our student community. It is a privilege to be a member of this Board which is committed to that change.

Jenny Shaw

Jenny Shaw

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.

Nik Miller

Nik Miller

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.

Andrea Dlaska

Andrea Dlaska

Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Learning and Innovation, Middlesex University


Working at a University, I am aware of how important having a home is to students’ success. For estranged and care experienced students not to have to worry about where they will live during their time at university allows them to focus on their studies, making friends and developing that all important sense of belonging in their university community.


It’s a joy and privilege to work with staff and scholars at the Unite Foundation to create awareness of what students need to succeed at university and beyond. I am particularly impressed with the creativity and commitment of our scholars in sharing their experiences and helping to support others.


Impact Report


Example Application Form

How to complete your Scholarship application.


Scholarship Guidance

Information on eligibility and the application process.


Annual Report 2020

2020 Annual Report and Accounts


Impact Report

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.


Annual Report

2019 Annual Report and Accounts



Covid-19: An update

January 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?


Responding to Covid-19

April 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.


Positive Impact

February 2020

What factors affect access, retention and graduate outcomes for university students with a background of care or family estrangement?


Positive Impact Annex 1


Positive Impact Annex 2


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!