UCAS's blog

The UCAS blog provides you with information about applying to uni.

Why is identifying estranged young people in HE crucial?

There are hundreds of thousands of young people who have a difficult and unsupportive relationship with their family in the UK. For many, family problems subside as children grow to become independent adults, and make their way to university. But for those students with family problems which grow and develop into wider rifts, the journey through school and into higher education is not always a smooth transition.

Estranged young people have no contact, support, and/or approval from their family. Our research shows there are three common causes of family estrangements, which can leave young people with no choice but to go it alone.

Families may experience mismatched values and beliefs between generations, where the choices a young person makes do not fit with the rigid expectations or traditions of the family unit. A common cause is persistent abuse, and particularly emotional abuse, where a young person does not receive the emotional validation, positivity, love, and care we typically associate with a functional parent/child relationship. Changes following divorce and remarriage play a large part in estrangement, and young adults can find themselves unwanted or unaccepted in a new family form, with the addition of one or more new family members. Importantly, our research shows such family issues often go unidentified by social services, meaning estranged young people lack the statutory visibility of care leavers, who have been removed from family and placed in residential or foster care. These young adults have taken the difficult step of removing themselves.

Many of these young people are studying in our schools and colleges and are grappling to find a place in our communities. A significant number of people reading this blog will have worked with such young people, who have been held back, hindered, and thrown off track by their lack of family capital. It may be that you, as professionals, have seen the barriers that independent young people, studying without family support, will come up against.  

How does this present itself? 

Visibility has been one of the most fundamental issues for both students and professionals in this area. As there is no formal divorce or removal process in place to emancipate young people from their families, it is hard for students to be given the necessary support, or feel confident in coming forward to access it.

Our research has shown that shame and stigma around self-removal from family acts stop young people from trusting that they can find support, and not judgement. Furthermore, these young people and their unique needs do not fit neatly into pre-existing support policies. For example, estranged students need support or flexibility with finding a lump sum deposit for halls of residence prior to entry, yet have little statutory status to give credence to their needs.

Furthermore, community and belonging is important for young people, who may feel they do not matter to anyone. If the first interaction a student experiences with a higher education provider is with an inflexible policy, defended to the hilt, barriers and frustrations are built. Our research and work in this sector has indicated that understanding staff, who are willing to advocate and challenge rigid policies, are crucial in the journey into higher education for estranged young people. Developing relationships with student support services early on, pre-entry, will maintain aspirations that the student community can accommodate their needs.  

We are therefore really pleased to have been working with UCAS to help improve visibility for estranged students

It is our intention at Stand Alone to ensure such students become more visible, and can be brought into the support networks of higher education providers sooner rather than later.

Stand Alone is a charity supporting people of all ages who are estranged from their family, or a key family member. We have a strategic focus on estranged young people between the ages of 18 – 25, who are entering higher education.
 

How a UK Degree Can Boost Your Career Opportunities

The main reason for anyone attending university is to get one step further to achieving their desired career. It’s important to attend a university where you are not only taught skills for future jobs in your studies, but also to learn from new cultural experiences, friendships, social life, and the everyday independency that may be new to you. Studying abroad allows you to learn these skills on another level, and why not do that in the country that is home to top English-speaking universities? Here we outline some more reasons why students from around the world should study their degree in the UK.

Recognised institutions

As the UK is known for schools with high academic standards, earning a degree from an accredited UK university connects you to an institution with a prestigious reputation recognised internationally. Across The Pond are partnered with over 40 top UK universities, each offering excellent programme teachings and great academic and career support. Having any of these universities on your résumé will look highly impressive to employers.

Less time and more intensive programs

The quicker the better, right? Not only will you have the opportunity to study at one of the top educational institutions in the world, you are also able to squeeze all your studies into a short time. A three-year bachelor’s and one-year master’s get straight to the point, requiring you to take only those classes which relate to your major. Not only that, with funding always being a big stumbling block to studying abroad, less time spent studying a degree means less money spent!

More specialised degrees

UK universities tend to offer specialised degrees at master’s level. This can be attractive if you don’t want to wait until studying a PhD or entering the workforce to start narrowing your interests and delving further into a specific field of study.

Having the freedom to pursue a specialty degree early on in your academic career allows exposure to educational and/or professional communities which you may join one day.

Boosts your employability

Across The Pond’s UK partner universities all offer programmes that you can utilise when applying for jobs at home after your studies. Employers seek applicants who are flexible and show an aptitude for independence and leadership. Having an international degree demonstrates that you took the initiative to live and study abroad, and international experience is highly valued by employers.


As former students at British universities, the Across The Pond advising team understands the difficulty of choosing whether studying abroad is for you. If you would like to find out more about studying in the UK and the vast opportunities it may offer you, please contact one of our advisers.


Exam stress season

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website www.aftertheplayground.com.‘Tis the season not to be jolly – otherwise known as the ‘exam stress season’. It’s like the flu season, but without the cough.

So here I am, juggling the very different needs of my three daughters, two of whom have exams this summer.

Here are the steps I have found useful in achieving a successful exam stress season. Let me be clear about what I mean by ‘successful’. I do not define success as every one of my children achieving straight A* grades in all subjects. I define success as them getting through the stress of exams safe and well, and being able to look back satisfied that they gave it their best shot. The rest is for fate and the public examination boards to sort out.

Exam sympathy
This is a point in my parenting life when I feel I am required to be unreservedly sympathetic. Some parents may want to tell their children exams were harder in their day, or had taken on ten paper rounds before they were out of nappies. Even if these things were true, I realise this is not the best time to talk about it. Exams are hard and can be gruelling. I find it helps to acknowledge this and state clearly my acceptance this is not a great time for teens. I also remind them it will not last forever, and a long summer break will soon be here – although I don’t mention results day is right in the middle of it!

Exam support
If you have some knowledge about the subjects your child is studying, it is tempting to become over-involved in the revision process, but this is not always helpful in the long term. The objective of this process is for your child to become an independent learner, so it may be useful to keep this in mind as you hog the textbooks.  Personally, I can be a complete pain in the neck when my kids are revising a subject which interests me, and I’m sure this is a constant source of irritation to them, but they humour me nevertheless.

On the other hand, don’t assume they will have everything available for the learning process. Revision skills are taught in most schools these days, but your teen may not have taken them on board. Therefore, you may want to encourage them to discover what works for them, and this is a matter of trial and error. I personally need to write everything down in note form when I am learning, and I also find it helpful to talk out loud as if I am explaining it to someone else. Some students find a whiteboard and pens useful, while others need a huge notebook. If you support them in their chosen revision method, at least it shows you respect the process and consider them mature enough to handle their own revision. If they can revise according to their own style it will be more productive, and perhaps even enjoyable, for them. They will NEVER admit this, however.

Exam structure
A perfectly structured family life is, in my experience, almost impossible to obtain. I can, however, see the benefits of everyone knowing what is happening and when. The timetables for public examinations are published well in advance and shared by schools and colleges. As soon as you get yours, pop the dates into your calendar or simply pin the timetable up in the kitchen where everyone can see it. That way you can plan family events without clashes.

A revision timetable really is essential, but can and should be flexible. Subjects can be broken down into sections or topics which can each be allocated a ‘session’. There should also be scheduled breaks. These are some of the reasons I find a timetable useful:
  1. It makes it easy to appreciate the quantity of work needed. Teens approaching public examinations for the first time sometimes underestimate the quantity of material they will have to plough through. This can lead to a last-minute panic. 
  2. It gives a psychological boost to teens who are floundering and overwhelmed, because it provides a clear path and much needed structure. 
  3. It shares out time between subjects, so your teens don’t become bogged down in one subject to the detriment of another. 
  4. It can give a sense of achievement if they stick to it. 
  5. If they don’t stick to it, this can give you or them an idea of how far behind they have got.
Exam supplies
My thoughts on this subject are very clear: if you are leaving your teen at home to revise, make sure there is plenty of reasonably healthy food in the house. This will prevent them from either starving to death or ordering several pizzas using your credit card details while you are out.

I know the official advice is to feed your child healthy brain-enhancing food at this time, and I feel this is absolutely the right thing to do. I also know there are moments in your life when you really have to have a chocolate biscuit, and halfway through an algebra equation is very likely to be one of those moments. So, once again, I try to reach a compromise. This is really not the time to have a blazing row over organic wholegrain crackers and humus.

Help with exam stress
There is no escaping the fact teens are put under a lot of pressure around exam time. Some will sail through with no problems, but others will struggle, and a few will become seriously affected by mental health issues.

There is plenty of help available if you are worried about your child’s exam stress. If you feel your child is really not coping with exams, and their physical or mental health is deteriorating, you should contact your GP, who will be able to give you some further advice. Organisations like ChildLine and Mind can also offer support and guidance.

Dr Sharon Parry is a Mum of three and a former public health research fellow. She now works as a freelance writer and shares useful tips and her thoughts and experiences of having kids in primary school, high school and university in Wales on her website www.aftertheplayground.com.

My volunteering journey

By NCS graduate, Georgie Burgess, from Birmingham.

I’d really recommend volunteering. I started by taking part in the National Citizen Service (NCS) programme in the summer after my GCSEs, and have continued volunteering through sixth form and my university studies. Giving back has changed my outlook on life. It’s also a great way to try out new things and push yourself to do whatever you can.

What was good about the NCS scheme? It gave me the opportunity to get involved in a local community project, addressing a real social need but in a supported and structured way. We decided to ask the public to sign a petition to raise awareness for the lack of self-harm and depression services. Throughout our research, we discovered that there was an incredibly long waiting list to speak to someone about mental health. We called the campaign 'Stamp Out Scars' and asked the public to sign plasters and stick them onto a body-shaped cut-out. We took pictures of this and sent them to the NHS and other organisations – this allowed us to promote local helplines and organisations for those who required them. We gained over 200 signatures and were told that we raised even more awareness for those local organisations. It was an empowering experience!

There are so many opportunities for volunteering when you’re at school or university. I focused on some arts projects which enabled me to do some coaching with children through dance and drama groups, and I also volunteered as a sixth form team member for my college. I’ve carried on doing volunteering as an NCS graduate and I mentored a group of NCS leaders, which was great because I was able to give back to the programme that got me involved in the first place.

If you’re thinking about volunteering, it makes sense to do something you're passionate about. So if you want to travel and see another country, then incorporate that into volunteering! Or if there's a topic that you feel needs more awareness, then go down that route. If you're completely stuck, do some research and find out what's out there. To spread awareness these days, it's easy to use social media as a platform to promote your cause, but nothing beats getting out in the community and talking about it. If people pick up on your passion, they’re more likely to feel a connection to whatever organisation/issue you’re raising awareness for.

I'd love to volunteer more! I really want to go to Thailand and teach. Spending a summer in another country and doing something selfless appeals to me because it fills me with warmth to know that I'm helping someone other than myself.

Changes to healthcare course funding

The Government recently held a consultation looking into the way some undergraduate pre-registration healthcare courses are funded, specifically for students who are ordinarily resident in England. If you’re ordinarily resident in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, or the Channel Islands, you’ll need to speak to your university to find out the funding arrangements in your area. The information below gives an overview of the changes taking place.

Following the consultation, it was announced that from 1 August 2017, students starting the courses listed below will need to apply to the Student Loans Company (Student Finance England provisions) for their tuition and maintenance loans:

  • Nursing (adult, child, mental health, learning disability, joint nursing/social work)
  • Midwifery
  • Dietetics
  • Occupational therapy
  • Operating department practitioner
  • Orthoptics
  • Orthotics and prosthetics
  • Physiotherapy
  • Podiatry/chiropody
  • Radiography (diagnostic and therapeutic)
  • Speech and language therapy

‘The funding reforms are designed to deliver a number of benefits towards securing the future healthcare workforce, including:

  • enabling up to 10,000 additional places on healthcare programmes at universities
  • offering typically 25% more financial support while studying
  • enhancing access to undergraduate study for those from disadvantaged backgrounds

For example, a single student studying on a three year programme would receive approximately £2,000 more funding support per year on a student loan compared to an NHS bursary.’
(Source: gov.uk)

If you’re starting your course this year, you may also be eligible for additional funding through a new scheme called the Learning Support Fund (LSF). This new scheme is made up of three elements:

  1. Child Dependants Allowance – this provides eligible students with a set amount of £1,000 each year.
  2. Travel and Dual Accommodation Expenses – similar to the current Practice Placement Expenses you may hear people talking about. Under this element, you can claim for any travel and accommodation expenses incurred over and above your usual daily travel to university costs when you’re on placement. A change for this element is that new students attending London-based universities can also now claim this funding support.
  3. Exceptional Support Fund – this enables eligible students in exceptional financial hardship to claim an amount up to £3,000 per year.

If you wish to apply for one or more of the LSF elements, you will need to be:

  • ordinarily resident in England
  • studying on an eligible programme at a university in England
  • in receipt of, or eligible for, a student loan under the Student Finance England provisions
  • actively involved in training, whether academic or practice

However, if you are on one of the following courses, there’s what is known as ‘transitional arrangements’ for you:

  • Postgraduate pre-registration healthcare programmes
  • Dental hygiene/dental therapy programmes
  • Certain part-time programmes

If you’re on one of these courses, you may be able to apply for funding support from the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) for the 2017/18 academic year. The NHSBSA is working with colleagues at the Department of Health to clarify how these courses will be funded from 2018 and beyond. Find out more about these arrangements.

If you started your course before 1 August 2017 and have maintained continual attendance at teaching and placement sessions, the new funding scheme does not apply to you. In this case, you can reapply for your NHS bursary each year as normal through your Bursary Online Support System (BOSS) account. However, if you started your studies before 1 August 2017 but have withdrawn for a period of time, you will need to contact your university for clarification of funding arrangements on your return.

You can find full details about the changes, eligibility information, and all the latest updates on the changes as they happen on the NHSBSA website. You can also get the latest on the funding changes by following @NHSBSA_Students or liking facebook.com/nhsstudentbursaries. 

Kerry Hemsworth

Head of Service – Operational Readiness

NHS Business Services Authority, Student Services

Source: NHS Business Services Authority


How to handle the stresses of the university lifestyle

Your time at university can be an especially challenging period of your life. Adapting to a new routine and a different environment isn’t always easy. Moving away from home is exciting because it gives you a level of independence, but this also means taking on responsibilities you might not have considered before – such as managing your own time, living with a group of other people, budgeting, and cooking for yourself.

With all this in mind, it’s not surprising that a recent survey of 2,460 students nationwide (conducted by The Student Housing Company) found that more than 96% of students experience stress throughout their studies.

Learning how to best handle stressful moments when you’re at university is really important, to ensure you look after your physical and mental wellbeing.

Organising your study time

The structure of university learning is very different to that of school and college. There are usually far fewer contact hours, which means you need to put in your own study time outside of the lecture halls. Depending on your course, you may have daily lectures and seminars, or only a handful. You’ll be completely responsible for your own study schedule – from managing your timetable and preparing for each lecture, to completing the necessary work to meet each assignment deadline.

It’s a wise idea to get organised and create your own study routine from the offset. Plotting your lecture timetable and all your assignment deadlines into a calendar will help you decide how to structure each day. It’s worth setting your own deadlines a few days before the assignments are due, to avoid the stress of completing work last minute. If you miss a lecture, contact your lecturer to see if you can get any information about what you missed, or ask one of your course mates if you could share their insight or notes.

Budgeting and paying bills

The thought of being in charge of your finances can be rather daunting. Paying rent, managing bills, and budgeting for your groceries and other essentials – all with the money from your student loan – can seem like an impossible task, and it’s no wonder that many students worry about money. Making your money stretch far enough each month requires you to be thrifty and wise when it comes to spending.

There are many easy ways that you can relieve the pressure of handling your finances, to ensure money doesn’t become a preoccupation. Just a few things that can help you save include:

making the most of discount codes, loyalty schemes, and coupons (including getting an NUS card and a 16-25 railcard)
cooking meals from fresh, rather than buying takeaways or ready meals
sharing kitchen essentials, such as milk and condiments, with your housemates
getting books from your university’s library where possible, instead of buying your own copy of everything on the reading list

Coping with homesickness

Feeling homesick can happen at any time while you’re at university. Whether this is your first time living away from home or not, it’s normal to miss your family and friends. Adjusting to an unfamiliar environment in communal living, settling into a different city, and struggling to make new friends can be an isolating experience, so it’s only natural to miss the comforts of home.

You can ease feelings of anxiety and loneliness (which in turn can trigger homesickness) in a number of ways. When you first move to university, you might feel nervous about making friends, but getting to know your housemates and course mates is a great place to start. Building friendships and socialising with the people you live with, or those on your course, can act as a good distraction if you are feeling low.

Striking up a conversation with your housemates can be as simple as popping on the kettle to share a cup of tea, or sitting down to watch a film one evening. With your course mates, you could suggest setting up a study group to share ideas (this can also ease some of the stress associated with assignments), or you could ask if they want to grab a drink after a lecture. If you feel comfortable, tell your friends that you’re missing home – the chances are they will be too.

Overcoming stress

University is a really exciting period that opens up many different possibilities and experiences. In order to have the most enjoyable time during your degree, it’s important to look after your wellbeing. Overcoming the various stresses associated with the sudden lifestyle change is essential. For more advice, take a look at The Student Housing Company’s mental health infographic.

Author bio: The Student Housing Company provides private student accommodation in cities across the UK, giving you a vibrant, social, and comfortable place to stay during your time at university.

Professional skills tests

If you're applying for teacher training programmes, you may have seen that some providers ask for professional skills tests as one of the entry requirements. In this blog, we’ll answer three of the most frequently asked questions our advisers receive.

1. Do I need to take a professional skills test?
To study for a teacher training programme in England you need to pass the numeracy and literacy skills tests. Some training providers may require you to complete them before your interview, or ask you to complete them by a certain date as a condition of your offer – check with your chosen training providers to confirm. If you’re applying for training programmes in Wales then you’re not required to pass the skills tests.

2. When can I book a professional skills test?
You cannot sit your professional skills test until you have completed and submitted your application. When filling in your application, you only need to include a date if you have previously sat your skills tests. If you haven’t, you should select ‘no’ and leave the date blank.
 


You can book your skills tests through learndirect, but places are on a first-come, first- served basis so it’s worth trying to book a space as soon as you have made your application. You can book a test up to three months in advance.

3. Who do I contact if I can’t find a suitable booking slot? 
The learndirect helpdesk is open Monday to Friday from 08:00 to 16:00. Call them on 0300 303 9613 or email support@sta.learndirect.com.

We’ve got lots of advice about entry requirements on ucas.com. If you have any questions about your chosen training programmes, get in touch with the training providers you're interested in - some training programmes have many more applications than places available, so their requirements might be higher.

There’s also plenty of support to help you get ready, including practice tests, on the Get Into Teaching website.


Getting a TV licence

You need to be covered by a TV licence to watch or record live TV programmes on any channel, or download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer.

This could be on any device, including a TV, desktop computer, laptop, mobile phone, tablet, games console, digital box, or DVD/VHS recorder. If you do any of the above without a valid licence, you risk prosecution and a maximum penalty of up to £1,000, plus any legal costs and/or compensation you may be ordered to pay. You will also still then have to buy a TV licence if you need one.

To find out more, go to tvlicensing.co.uk/studentinfo.

How can I buy a TV licence?

There are lots of different ways to buy a TV licence. Whether that’s through weekly cash payments, using your nearest PayPoint outlet, spreading the cost with monthly, quarterly, or yearly direct debit, credit/debit card or by post, just choose the one that suits you best.

For more information on the ways to pay, go to tvlicensing.co.uk/payinfo.

If I live in halls, won’t I already be covered by a TV licence?

Your room needs to be covered by its own licence if you're plugged in to watch or record programmes as they're being shown on TV, live on an online TV service, or if you download or watch BBC programmes on iPlayer. If there are TVs in communal areas, check with your halls' manager to see if they’re covered by a halls licence.

What if I live in a shared house?

You'll probably only need one licence between you if you have a joint tenancy agreement for the whole house – this is the most common type of shared house arrangement. You might need your own licence if your accommodation is self-contained – if you have exclusive access to washing facilities, or your own entrance to the property. You will also need your own licence if you have a separate tenancy agreement for your own room. If you're not sure, check our advice for tenants and lodgers.

Won't my parents' licence cover me?

Your parents' licence will not cover you while you're away at uni, unless you only use a device that's powered solely by its own internal batteries and not connected to the mains power supply.

What if I'm not at uni for the summer?

If you're leaving your halls or rented accommodation and moving back home for the summer, there's a good chance you won't need your TV licence if there's one at home. You can see our policy and apply for a refund online.

What if I don’t need a licence?

If you don’t need a TV licence, you should let TV Licensing know so they can update their records. They won’t then send you any letters for approximately two years.
 

Apprenticeship funding facts

How are apprenticeships funded? Will you be paid? Here are the answers to all your funding questions.
  •  You’ll be paid for your working hours (generally 30 hours per week) as well as your training. This includes holiday pay, for when you need those all-important breaks
  • The national minimum wage for apprentices under the age of 19, or in their first year of an apprenticeship, is £3.50 (from April 2017). Take the time to assess your options, as on some higher apprenticeships,you can earn as much as £300 – 500 per week.
  •  Apprenticeships are funded by the government and employers. This means you’ll graduate debt-free!
  • If you’re over the age of 24, you’ll have to contribute to your own training costs. However, the government offers Advanced Learner Loans to support you.
 
There are hundreds of apprenticeships out there, so why not browse your options now?

Think you know apprenticeships?

There are a lot of myths about apprenticeships. Here, we separate fact from fiction.
  •   Fiction – Apprenticeships are not for everyone.
  •   Fact – No matter your interests or how old you are, you can find an apprenticeship to suit you. There are apprenticeships available at all levels, in a huge range of sectors.
Apprenticeships start at Level 2, so you could study an apprenticeship instead of taking A levels. Equally, if you are already in full-time employment and want to change career, you have the chance to do so with an apprenticeship.
  •   Fiction – Apprenticeships are like volunteering.
  •   Fact – You get paid on the job, as you learn.
Apprentices are paid the national minimum wage as standard – while this might not sound like a lot, it will go a long way to alleviating money worries.
  •   Fiction – Taking an apprenticeship will make me less employable than a university graduate.
  •   Fact – Many apprenticeships share content with full undergraduate courses. You can learn the same things you would with a degree, but will pick up valuable experience at the same time.
While some employers favour those with a traditional degree, this is changing. Strong performance on an apprenticeship can make you stand out from the crowd – unlike many graduates, you’ll have direct workplace experience alongside your qualification.
  •  Fiction: I will have fees to pay back.
  •  Fact: All apprenticeships are paid for by the government and employers, so you’ll graduate debt-free!
From April 2017, apprenticeships will be funded by the apprenticeship levy. If you’re concerned about getting value for money out of your studies, an apprenticeship could be for you – get all the skills and experience you need, without the debt.
 
There are hundreds of apprenticeships out there – if you are interested in taking one, start looking at your options now!

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