Care experienced students

UCL is committed to supporting young people in care and those who have left a care environment, and we encourage students to apply to study at UCL and access the support available.

UCL recognises that when applying and entering higher education, young people in care can face particular difficulties that their peers are less likely to experience. The guidance below explains some of the specific help available to you if you are a care experienced student. We are committed to supporting care experienced students while they’re at UCL.

We encourage you to access our activities and are also happy to arrange a visit to the UCL campus for care experienced students. Please see the Experience UCL page for more information about this.

Personal support

When you arrive at UCL, your department will assign you to a Personal Tutor. Their main role is to advise you on academic matters, but you can also discuss non-academic matters with them in confidence. Normally, you will meet with your Personal Tutor once a term, but you can also see them on an appointment basis.

If you're a research student, your supervisory team will fulfil much the same function as a Personal Tutor.

Find out more about Personal Tutors.

We encourage you to access our activities and are also happy to talk to you about various aspects of university. The Student Success team supports care experienced students.  If you are interested in talking to them about university life and the support available, please email smss.studentsuccess@ucl.ac.uk.

The mentoring programme Family Action: Friendship Works is available to all UCL undergraduate UK care experienced students.  For more information on this programme, and to apply, you should contact your Student Adviser or the Student Success team on smss.studentsuccess@ucl.ac.uk.
UCL’s Transition Programme supports all new first-year undergraduate students in adapting to university life, assisting new students in dealing with the social, academic and personal issues that are specific to UCL. As a first-year student, you’ll be allocated a Transition Mentor, a second- or third-year student from your department of study. They will introduce themselves to you in your first week and mentor you during your first term, as you settle into university life.

Find out more about the Transition Programme.

If you would like support with regard to your mental health, you can book an appointment with an adviser from the Disability, Mental Health and Wellbeing Team

Should you wish to discuss how this relates to your faith or belief background in a safe and inclusive environment, you can speak with our Chaplain and Interfaith Adviser by booking an appointment or emailing chaplaincy@ucl.ac.uk.

Applying to Student Finance as a care experienced student

Undergraduate students from the UK who apply for loans from Student Finance usually have to provide their parents' income to receive the maximum amount of maintenance loan.

However, if you are a care experienced student, Student Finance will not use your parents' income to assess you for support.

Student Finance define a care experienced student as a young person who:

  • has been in the care of, or been given accommodation by, their Local Authority (LA) for a period of at least 13 weeks before the age of 16
  • has not reconciled with their parents between leaving care and starting their course

When you apply for Student Finance loans as a care experienced student, you will be asked to send evidence that shows you were looked after, or have been given accommodation by, your LA. Usually you'll be asked to send a letter from your local council or care authority. This letter should confirm you:

  • were under the care of your LA
  • have now left the care of the LA
  • are care experienced as defined in the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000

You'll only have to provide this evidence once at the start of your course.

Once Student Finance have given you 'care experienced status' you will be eligible for the maximum amount of maintenance loan for the duration of your course and will be eligible for additional bursaries from UCL (see below).

Financial support from your local authority

Local councils and authorities often provide financial support to students who were in their care, who go on to attend university. Types of support could include an additional bursary or payment for accommodation.

To apply for support, you should contact your personal adviser, social worker or caseworker. You can also check your local authority website for details of support that they might have for care experienced students.

Other financial support

The sources of support listed here, other than the Financial Assistance Fund, are for undergraduate students only.

Find out more about general student funding

Access UCL (contextual offers)

Care experienced applicants are automatically eligible for Access UCL, UCL’s contextual offer scheme. This means that if you are care experienced and made an offer by UCL, you will receive a dual offer consisting of the standard offer and the contextual offer, which will be reduced by up to two grades. For these purposes, care experienced is defined as someone who has been looked after by a local authority for three months in their life, the months do not need to be consecutive. If you are care experienced, please make sure you tick the ‘time in care’ box on your UCAS form so that our Admissions team can follow up with you. Care experienced applicants are eligible for Access UCL whether they have attended a UK state or independent school. 

Find out more about Access UCL

Care Leaver Bursary

UK undergraduate students who are assessed as care experienced students by Student Finance (see above) are eligible for the UCL Care Leaver Bursary of £1,000 for each year of study.

Find out more about the Care Leaver Bursary

UCL Undergraduate Bursary

UK undergraduate students who are assessed as care experienced students by Student Finance (see above) will be automatically assessed as being eligible for the maximum UCL Undergraduate Bursary of £2,500 for each year of study.

Find out more about the UCL Undergraduate Bursary.

Financial Assistance Fund

Students in financial need may be able to access the Financial Assistance Fund. This is discretionary assistance for current UCL students who find themselves in unexpected financial difficulty.

Find out more about the Financial Assistance Fund.


UCL will provide 365-day accommodation for care experienced students in their first year and, if needed, 365-day accommodation will also be provided for subsequent years of study.

If you need 365-day accommodation and/or accommodation beyond your first year at UCL, please contact the UCL Accommodation team. You can do so via askUCL or by calling +44 (0)20 7679 6322 during office hours, Monday to Friday.

Care Experienced and Estranged Students’ Guide

Information for UCL students and applicants who are care experienced or estranged from family.

Please note that this guide was correct at time of publishing in December 2018.

Further information and support


Become is a charitable organisation who provides support for young people in care and care experienced students.

Find out more about Become.

Brandon Centre

Brandon Centre is a place for young people to get help with personal problems from people who are professionally trained. The counselling and psychotherapy service is free and confidential. They see young people aged 16 – 24, as well as care leavers who live in the boroughs of Camden or Islington.

You can refer yourself by telephoning, emailing or dropping into the Centre. Alternatively, you can be referred by someone else, for instance your GP. There are appointments from Monday to Saturday, including early evening appointments on some days.

Find out more about the Brandon Centre's counselling and psychotherapy services.

Buttle UK 

Buttle UK is a charitable organisation providing grant aid to vulnerable young people to provide the best possible opportunity in meeting their educational needs.

Find out more about Buttle UK.

Listening Works

Listening Works is a virtual listening service for care experienced students aged 18 – 27. Care experienced students can contact the service by phone, text messages or web chat.  A team of trained volunteers responds to calls and messages.  

Opening hours: 6pm – midnight, 7 days a week, with an answerphone available outside these hours if callers wish to leave a message.

Contact details:  
Telephone: 0808 802 0222
Live web chat via Listening Works webpage 
Text message: 07860 065 169
Find out more about Listening Works

Read more about care experienced students.