Glasgow Caledonian University hosts launch of guarantee to care-experienced applicants

24 July 2019
Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Pamela Gillies with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Marc Treanor (left) and Oliver Costigan.

GCU joined Scotland’s 17 other higher education institutions in guaranteeing care-experienced applicants who meet minimum entry requirements an offer of an undergraduate place at university.

The sector-wide move will be in place for the next admissions cycle this autumn, for applicants looking to start university in autumn 2020, and is aimed at driving a significant increase in the number of care-experienced people going to university.

The guarantee, which was facilitated by Universities Scotland, was formally announced at an event at Glasgow Caledonian University with support from the Rt Hon First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon MSP; our Principal and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Pamela Gillies CBE FRSE; and the Principal of University of St Andrews, Professor Sally Mapstone. They were joined by care-experienced people, a number of whom may be applying to university in future.

Commenting at the launch of the pledge, Professor Gillies said: “The announcement demonstrates that universities across Scotland recognise the importance of those who have had an experience of care and the huge potential they have.”

GCU already has a strong record on widening access with 23.5% of our Scottish full-time first degree entrants coming from the 20% most deprived backgrounds compared with a Scottish average of 15.6%. In addition, 90.5% those students return to study in year two, compared to a sector average of 89.4%.

Scottish Government figures show there is a significant gap in the educational attainment of people with experience of care, which means that 12% of “looked after” school-leavers have achieved at least one Higher or equivalent qualification compared to 62% of all school leavers. At the moment, only 4% of looked after school leavers go directly into higher education, compared to 41% of all school leavers. GCU already offers a wide range of support to those who declare a looked after or care-experienced background, both before and during their university experience. In addition to our Corporate Parenting Plan, we are actively engaged with the Care-experienced, Estranged and Carers West Forum and the Glasgow Health and Social Care Partnership Corporate Parenting Network.

The First Minister said: “Education is by far the most effective means we have of improving the life chances of our young people. I am firmly committed to widening access to higher education and ensuring that all learners, regardless of their background, have an equal chance of entering university. 

“It is important that every young person has access to the learning that will provide them with the skills and qualifications they need to meet their aspirations and succeed in life.”

Two GCU students with care experience attended the event. Oliver Costigan, a third-year MEng in Mechanical Electronic Systems Engineering, said: “I feel like it does justice to other prospective students in really giving them the confidence that they need to be able to actually make that first step and apply – it will give them the confidence they will actually have a chance of getting a place at uni.”

Marc Treanor, a third-year BA(Hons) in Finance, Investment and Risk Management, said: “I think today is a good step forward in care-experienced people getting opportunities in further education. It's often said that people are forgotten about when their care experienced but this guarantee will help people in schools, encourage them to come forward and apply and achieve better in life.”