The University of Stirling’s support for students with care experience has been recognised by a senior Scottish politician during a visit to the campus.
Roz McCall, Scottish Conservative MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife and the party’s deputy education spokesperson, met students and staff in the Student Support Hub, part of the University’s new Campus Central development.
Students with experience in care can encounter additional barriers to higher education, from achieving the necessary entrance requirements to securing year-round accommodation.
The University offers an integrated package of support, helping learners with a background in care to overcome challenges they may face.
During her visit on Wednesday, Ms McCall met Peter Humfrey, who graduated from the University of Stirling in 2023 with a Bachelor’s degree (Hons) in Journalism Studies and is returning to the University to study for a Masters degree in International Journalism.
Peter Humfrey said: “My time at the University of Stirling opened my eyes to both the challenges and support available for care-experienced students. Before starting my studies, I’d never heard the term, despite being adopted myself.
“The journey I’ve been on, and the help I’ve received through practical support such as the care-experienced bursary, 365-day accommodation offer, and my mentor from the student hub, saw me through the toughest times, enabling me to complete my degree and go on to further study.”
Since her election to the Scottish Parliament, Ms McCall has championed opportunities and support for care leavers, including the provision of appropriate support to enable pupils and students to fulfil their potential.
The University’s integrated approach to assistance begins with targeted campaigns to raise awareness of what a university degree can offer, what support is available, and what life as a Stirling student involves.
Stirling’s admissions policies consider an applicant’s history, with care experienced applicants who meet minimum entry requirements guaranteed an offer to study. Student accommodation is available throughout the year, while a single point of contact exists throughout a learner’s journey, signposting a range of services from financial guidance and mental health and wellbeing support.
Help is available
Help is available for any student or applicant who has been or is currently in care, or from a looked-after background, at any stage in their life, for any length of time. This includes adopted young people who were previously looked after.
Staff at the University are also encouraged to undergo a dedicated training module, developed by the Open University in partnership with Who Cares? Scotland, which helps staff to understand the obstacles that looked-after young people face in accessing, staying in, and progressing from higher education.
Roz McCall, MSP For Mid Scotland and Fife said: “It is so important that everyone has an opportunity to realise their potential, so that they can progress in whichever path they choose.
‘’I am a firm believer that past experience and trauma should not be a barrier to achievement and that is why I was delighted to hear about the work the University of Stirling does to support all students, but in particular for care experienced individuals.”
Professor Leigh Sparks, Deputy Principal Education and Students at the University of Stirling said: “Since its foundation, the University of Stirling has been a place where ability – not background – is valued. We want all students to fulfil their potential, but we know that students who are care experienced may face additional challenges.
“That’s why we offer an integrated package of support, making sure that students can access the help they need, at the right time. We work closely with care-experienced students to make sure that this support is effective and helps them to succeed, wherever they are on their learner journey.”
Campus Central tour
Ms McCall also toured the University’s £23 million Campus Central development, which was recently named by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland as a recipient of the 2023 RIAS award.
The vibrant space, at the heart of the University’s parkland campus, combines a blend of study, social, and digitally connected spaces, along with a dedicated one-stop-shop for student services.
Roz McCall MSP added: “The University of Stirling should be very proud of the new Campus Central building, which has been recognised by the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS).
“I was pleased to see first-hand the multifunctional spaces specifically designed for place-based learning. All self-funded, these new facilities will go a long way in improving the student experience for all, regardless of background.”