If you’ve spent time in care or a foyer, are estranged from your parents, or have been a carer for someone, there are specific scholarships, grants, and bursaries available to support you at university.

Applying to university is a massive leap for any student, but especially those who don’t have traditional family support, or who’ve had to take on further responsibility at home. For these students, the matter of finance can be a difficult burden.

If you fall into this category, the good news is that there’s dedicated funding available to you once you arrive and begin studying  – usually in the form of bursaries, that you don’t have to pay back, unlike your student loans. These can make a huge difference when it comes to your living and study costs, including accommodation.

Also, there are a lot of other ways your university or college can assist you, whether you’re still in the process of applying, or getting ready to graduate.

This way, you don’t have to worry that your domestic circumstances will hold you back from getting into and thriving at university.

Learn more about funding for care and foyer leavers, estranged students, and carers pursuing a full-time undergraduate degree, below.

How does student finance work where you live? Explore our complete guides to undergraduate finance in EnglandScotlandWales, and Northern Ireland.

Care and foyer leaver students

What extra funding can care and foyer leavers get?

Here are a few examples of bursaries and awards offered by universities, to students who are in, or have been in, care or a foyer:

  • Example 1: £5,700 over three years.
  • Example 2: Up to £9,000 over three years, paid in nine instalments per year on a preloaded card.
  • Example 3: One-off £600 cash bursary towards costs of starting life at university, and a one-off £100 payment towards graduation costs.
  • Example 4: £1,500 paid in three instalments, although students have the option to receive this as a fee waiver or accommodation discount instead.
  • Example 5: £1000 per year, paid in two instalments.

To find what extra funding your UCAS choices offer, visit their websites, or contact them. There will be some work involved for you, but the rewards are well worth it.

Need help budgeting for university?  Use our student budget calculator to see how much money you'll need to live on.

Eligibility criteria for funding for care and foyer leavers

New students normally have to meet the following eligibility criteria, for a care leavers’ award:

  • You’ve been in the care of a Health and Social Care Trust or Local Authority, for three months or more, from the age of 14 years – usually you’ll have to provide a supporting letter from your Local Authority, support worker, or foyer manager to confirm this.
  • You’re under 25 years old.
  • You qualify for home fee status and live in the UK.
  • You’ve accepted an offer for a qualifying, full-time undergraduate course at that university.
  • You meet the grade requirements and conditions that come with your offer.

Always check the eligibility criteria for a specific university or college you’re interested in, as there may be small differences.

  • While most don’t mention anything about household income, one university states that yours must be below £25,000 or less (including throughout your studies when reapplying for finance).
  • One university highlights that applicants can’t get both the Care Leavers Bursary and Stand Alone Bursary. If you are eligible for more than one type of funding covered in this guide, your university may decide which one you receive.
  • One university clarifies that students ‘must not be living with parents or receiving any financial support from parents’.
  • One university highlights that further instalments are ‘subject to satisfactory academic progress’.

Applying for care and foyer leavers funding 

Some universities and colleges will get in touch automatically if you’re eligible, based on the information you provide in your UCAS and student finance applications.

Others will require you to apply as a care leaver directly. You can find out who to contact and how to apply on their websites.

Estranged students

What extra funding can estranged students get? 

Students who are not in contact with their parents, are considered ‘estranged students’. We got into more detail about this means below.

Here are a few examples of funding offered by universities and colleges, to estranged students:

  • Example 1: £1,000 bursary per year, plus £1,000 to help with start-up costs, and a further £1,000 on graduation.
  • Example 2: £5,000 per year.
  • Example 3: One-off, £600 cash bursary towards costs of starting life at university, and a one-off £100 payment towards graduation costs.
  • Example 4: £1,500 per progressive year.
  • Example 5: £3,000 per year.

Eligibility criteria for funding for estranged students

You’re considered an ‘estranged student’ if you have no contact or financial support from your parents or guardians, on a permanent basis.

New students applying for a bursary or award for estranged students from their university or college normally have to meet the following criteria:

  • You’re an ‘independent student’ irreconcilably estranged from your biological or adoptive parents, and wider family network – see more on this below.
  • You’re under 25 years old.
  • You qualify for home fee status and live in the UK.
  • You’ve accepted an offer for a qualifying, full-time undergraduate course at that university.
  • You meet the grade requirements and conditions that come with your offer.

Applying for estranged student funding

To satisfy the eligibility criteria above, you need to be assessed by your student finance body, so they can certify that you are an ‘independent student’.

As part of this, an appropriate third party close to your situation – like a teacher, GP, or social worker – must provide written confirmation that you’ve had no form of contact with your biological or adoptive parents for 12 months prior to your course beginning, and this breakdown is irreconcilable.

You don’t have to be in, or have been in care, to qualify for estranged student funding.

You won’t qualify as an independent student based solely on not getting along or living with your parents, nor if your parents refuse to provide details of their income as part of your means-tested student finance application.

A university or college may reach out automatically to let you know you’re eligible for funding they offer, based on the information provided in your student finance application, When completing your application, remember to indicate that you’re happy for your student finance body to share this with them.

On the other hand, you might have to apply directly. This might seem like more work, but it can be beneficial for estranged students. Everyone’s circumstances vary, so getting the opportunity to explain your situation can be helpful for a university or college, so they are fully aware of your circumstances and needs.

Always check the exact application process for any award you’re interested in, so you’re clear on what you need to do.

Also see our financial support for estranged students advice.

Carers

What extra funding can student carers get?

In addition to any financial support you receive as part of your student finance, you can get further help from your university or college if you’re an unpaid carer for someone — we go into more detail about this below.

This is usually referred to as a ‘Young Adult Carer bursary’, or something similar.

Here’s an idea of what’s available for new full-time students, who are carers:

  • Example 1: £500 per year of study.
  • Example 2: £2,000 per year, plus further £500 per year for travel to home and access to sports and societies.
  • Example 3: One-off £600 cash bursary towards costs of starting life at university, and a one-off £100 payment towards graduation costs.
  • Example 4: £500 travel bursary per year.
  • Example 5: £1,000 bursary per year.

Eligibility for student carer funding

To qualify for funding as a student or young adult carer, you normally have to meet the following criteria:

  • You care for or look after a family member, friend or other individual, due to disability, chronic or terminal illness, mental health difficulty, drug/alcohol dependency or another reason — see more on this below.
  • You’re between 18 and 25 years old.
  • You qualify for home fee status and live in the UK.
  • You’ve accepted an offer for a qualifying, full-time undergraduate course at that university.
  • You meet the grade requirements and conditions that come with your offer.

Applying for student carer funding

As part of the above eligibility criteria, you need to provide written evidence to prove you’ve had caring responsibilities for an individual with one of the conditions above. This can be either:

  • a Department for Work and Pensions Allowance statement confirming you’ve received a carers' allowance in the past, and this has now ceased
  • a letter confirming your role and responsibilities caring for that person from an appropriate third party who is close to the situation – this could be their GP, support worker, social services, or a local authority

You should apply directly to your university or college, and submit the necessary evidence.

Extra financial help from universities and colleges

Universities and colleges may offer further financial help to students who fall into these groups, from applying through to graduation.

  • Travel costs to interviews, open days etc. – even if they haven’t accepted you yet, a university or college may reimburse your public transport costs to attend any events that are part of your research or application process. However, you’ll need to get approval in advance, and save your receipts.
  • Basic items when moving in – one university invites students to ‘get in touch’ if they have concerns about affording basic items for your accommodation, such as bedding and kitchen utensils.
  • Priority for hardship funds and other funding – your application for emergency funds or additional bursaries may be prioritised over other students, should you run into financial hardship while studying.
  • Budgeting and other advice – this might be the first time you’ve had to juggle large sums of money like a student loan, or budget for living costs. To help you get on top of your money, your university’s finance department may offer workshops or drop-in sessions – this might include creating a budget, or telling you about other grants you’re eligible for.
    • Other departments are on-hand when it comes to other adult responsibilities too. For example, if you have a feeling you’re being ripped off by a dodgy landlord, your housing office can take a look at the contract. They might save you some cash, and a lot of hassle, in the long run.
  • Accommodation – while it’s highly unlikely that a university or college won’t charge you rent, they might be more flexible when it comes to putting down a deposit. One university says it will ‘discuss options’ with students who are worried about this hefty expense.
    • Speaking of free rent though, you might have more luck with private student halls provider, Unite. They offer scholarships to care leaver/experienced or estranged students[, to get a free place in one of their halls of residence for up to three years. You need to meet some basic criteria along the lines of the above, as well as study at a partner university where they have halls located. 
    • Alternatively, you might receive a discount on halls as part of another scholarship package you successfully apply for, such as a widening participation  or sports scholarship.
    • A key concern for students who don’t have a stable home away from university, is having to move out of their halls during holidays. If you’re a care/foyer leaver or an estranged student, your university or college can offer you guaranteed year-round accommodation, to save you the inconvenience and extra cost of finding somewhere temporary.

Other sources of help

  • Buttle UK — learn about grants for estranged students, and young people without support from family or guardians.
  • StandAlone — understand how to apply for independent status (in England and Wales), plus get advice on other topics for estranged students.
  • NHS  — get advice for young carers, including links to dedicated groups and services.
  • Turn2us  — search for grants, or check your eligibility for various benefits with their calculator.

Open day questions for care/foyer leavers, estranged students, and carer funding

  • What funding do you offer care/foyer leavers, estranged students, and carers?
  • What eligibility criteria do students applying for these, have to satisfy? What documents can they provide as evidence?
  • Is household income a factor for eligibility for these types of funding?
  • What happens if a student is eligible for more than one form of funding, such as a care leavers bursary and an estranged student bursary? Can they apply for both, or do you decide which they receive?
  • Do students have to apply for this funding, or will you reach out automatically to let them know they’re eligible? If students have to apply, when is the deadline to do so?
  • Under what circumstances might this funding be withdrawn?
  • Do you prioritise applications from care/foyer leavers, estranged students, and carers for other types of funding, such as hardship funds?
  • If a student is concerned with any specific living costs, such as accommodation or basic necessities when they move in, is there financial support to help with these? Who can they speak to?
  • What extra, non-financial benefits can students get alongside this funding?

Tips for care/foyer leavers, estranged students, and carer funding

  • Documents and evidence – whatever funding you’re applying for, you’ll likely need to provide some form of written evidence, for eligibility purposes. Make sure you’re clear about what will be accepted. Those who can provide these, including healthcare workers and government departments, can get extremely busy, which can slow things down.
    • Approach them as early as possible, so you want to miss any deadlines. If you find yourself waiting for a reply, chase it up politely, while making it clear that it’s urgent.
  • Get in touch – if you’re not sure whether you qualify for a particular type of funding, or your situation is complicated, don’t be afraid to reach out to a university or college’s finance department, rather than struggle on your own, or assume you can’t be helped.
    • These individuals and teams have extensive experience advising students from a wide range of backgrounds and circumstances, and will treat your situation with the utmost privacy, care, and confidence.
    • As we’ve highlighted above, universities are open to talk if you’re concerned about affording certain expenses too.
  • Be open and honest – it can be difficult to talk about issues at home, or share personal information with a stranger. However, it’s really important to be open and honest to the relevant individual at the university or college, so they can give you the necessary support or flexibility you’re eligible for.
    • As we’ve mentioned above, this doesn’t just apply to funding your studies. It could extend to your application and offers, academic support, life skills, accommodation, and work experience. You might be surprised by the extent of resources and benefits available. 

Student finance not enough? See what your options are if your student loan won’t cut it, including alternative paths to a degree.

How much will university cost you? Learn more about student loans.