Support for care leavers
All students require support from time to time, but some care leavers may have specific concerns when starting university.
The far-reaching welfare system in place at the University of Cambridge means we consistently have one of the lowest drop-out rates in the UK. As well as the support you receive through your College, there are a number of University services that provide specialist assistance should you need or want it.
In order to ensure you get the support available to you as a care leaver, you should indicate in your UCAS application that you’ve spent time in care.
If you are or have been in care, or are supporting a young person currently or previously in care and would like more information about visiting or studying at the University and the support available, please contact the Cambridge Admissions Office (CAO). The Realise Team specialise in supporting individuals with care experience and are always happy to offer advice and answer questions that you might have.
Cambridge is a collegiate university and is made up of various academic faculties and departments and a number of Colleges. This means that as well as being part of the wider University, you're also part of a smaller College community that ensures its members are supported and valued.
Each undergraduate student at the University is assigned a Director of Studies (DoS) who’s there to oversee academic progress and welfare. In addition, students have access to a Tutor who provides pastoral support and can advise on personal and financial matters.
Cambridge support services are available to all students, including the Advice Service, the University Counselling Service and the Disability Resource Centre. When you arrive in Cambridge, the CAO Widening Participation Team will also get in touch to provide you with more information.
All undergraduates are guaranteed accommodation by their Cambridge College for at least three years*. Some Colleges also provide fourth-year accommodation. Although most College accommodation contracts are for 26-39 weeks, the Colleges are committed to ensuring that care leavers have accommodation available to them throughout the year if they wish/need to stay in Cambridge during the vacations.
Cambridge is a relatively inexpensive place to study and the University offers an extensive programme of financial support to ensure that students can meet the cost of their education, regardless of background. This support includes the Cambridge Bursary Scheme, which offers non-repayable Bursaries of up to £3,500 a year.
If resident in Cambridge throughout the whole year (ie during vacation time as well as term time) care leavers may be eligible for a higher level of Bursary (currently £5,600). To receive the higher level Bursary, the Cambridge College will need to confirm residency throughout the year. Please ensure your College is aware of your circumstances to make it easier to access all of the support available to you and that you indicate on your UCAS form that you are a care leaver when applying.
There may also be additional sources of financial support available to you, please contact the College to which you’re considering applying to discuss your circumstances.
Students from England
Students from England may be eligible for a means-tested maintenance loan – if you're leaving care then you're likely to receive the maximum loan. See the Student Finance England: Care Leavers document for further details.
If you're beginning higher education for the first time before you're 25, your local authority should be supporting you financially and you should be eligible for a one-off £2,000 Higher Education Bursary. We recommend that you contact your local authority to discuss the financial support available to you.
Students from Scotland
Students from Scotland, the Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) will assess your circumstances and you may be eligible for the Young Students’ Bursary or the Independent Students’ Bursary if you're over 25. You may also be eligible for the Vacation Grant for Care Leavers which covers accommodation costs outside university term time.
Please see the SAAS guide for care leavers for further information. Your local authority may provide you with additional after-care support if you're under 25 and in education. We recommend that you contact your local authority to discuss the financial support available to you.
Students from Wales
Students from Wales may be eligible to receive a means-tested Welsh Government Learning grant – if you're leaving care then you're likely to get the maximum grant. See Student Finance Wales for further details.
If you're beginning higher education for the first time before you turn 25, your local authority should be supporting you financially and you should be eligible for a one-off £2,000 Higher Education Bursary. We recommend you contact your local authority to find out the financial support that may be available to you.
Students from Northern Ireland
Students from Northern Ireland may be eligible to receive a means-tested maintenance grant – if you're leaving care then you're likely to receive the maximum grant. See Student Finance NI for further details.
Any shortfall in funding requirements (after tuition fee loans, grants and university bursaries) could be met by your responsible Trust. We recommend that you contact your responsible Trust to find out what additional support is available to you.
Mature students and student parents
If you're aged between 21 and 25 and previously spent time in care, you may be entitled to support if starting education at this stage.
If you left school a while ago and are now considering taking up a higher education course, please refer to our information for mature students.
If you're a student with children you can find details about support available to you on the University Childcare Information Service website including family accommodation, childcare services and finance.
*Accommodation guarantee applies to single undergraduates without children, and at all Colleges except St Edmund's.