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Ambitions & priorities: Care experience

Attracting more young people in care, those from a looked after background and care leavers to further and higher education is a priority for SFC as part of our overall strategy to ensure fair access.

Widening access

We use the term care experienced to include anyone who has been or is currently in care or from a looked-after background at any stage of their life, no matter how short. This care may have been provided in one of many different settings such as in residential care, foster care, kinship care or looked after at home with a supervision requirement.

National ambition for care experienced students

SFC has a national ambition for care experienced students [PDF] for the college and university sectors and our partners to address the under-representation and poor educational outcomes for this group.

SFC has made a commitment to improve these outcomes and our ambition is that by 2021 there is no difference between the outcomes of care experienced students compared to their peers. We have set up a Governance Group to track progress and hold SFC and our partners to account. Anyone wishing to see papers from previous meetings, attend the Group or with queries about it, should contact Nick Stansfeld, email:

We have been collecting data on care experienced students since 2013-14. The numbers of care experienced students continue to increase in the college and university sector with the performance gap narrowing in line with our National Ambition targets.

Our care experienced 2016-17 data [PDF] was presented to our Governance Group at its June meeting. Please note we are working to improve the quality of this data and due to small numbers this data is subject to fluctuations. For these reasons we advise caution in using and interpreting this data. We are aiming to enhance our publication of data on care experienced students in our annual Report on Widening Access.

Survey of care experienced students in Scottish colleges and universities

The Survey of care experienced students in Scottish colleges and universities, carried out by CELCIS, on behalf of SFC, is the first Scotland-wide survey of care experienced students in Scotland's colleges and universities. The research aimed to broaden and deepen understanding of the barriers and enablers that care experienced students encounter in going to, being at and staying at college and university in Scotland.

Outcome agreements

We ask colleges and universities to demonstrate their commitment to care experienced students through their Outcome Agreement. See our Outcome Agreements Guidance for further information.

We expect universities to commit fully to the Commission on Widening Access recommendations, especially No. 21 which ensures that every care experienced applicant meeting the minimum entry requirements will be offered a place at a Scottish university.

SFC funding

The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 requires all colleges and universities to act as “corporate parents” to ensure care experienced students receive the best possible support and care. We fund Who Cares? Scotland to deliver corporate parent training to all colleges and universities to help them deliver on their legal responsibilities.

We also fund Become, which aims to increase the number of care experienced young people entering and staying in further and higher education. Their website Propel shows the support provided by different institutions in Scotland.

We signed the Who Cares? Scotland Pledge to Listen and support MCR Pathways, a school-based mentoring programme working with disadvantaged and care-experienced young people in Scotland to realise their full potential through education.