Learning on the margins: Care leavers in higher education

Sean Murphy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article considers the current situation regarding support for care leavers in higher education (HE). It reviews the current policy context, including offering some examples of best practice and concludes with an overview of the Teesside University research findings into care leavers’ accounts of studying in HE across the UK. Driscoll (2013:146) once described care leavers as living ‘intricate lives’ characterised by ‘busy isolation’ who are prone to additional vulnerabilities with regards to staying on track with their studies. In many respects, the Covid-19 pandemic epitomises this phenomenon, as many care leaver students experience this ‘busy isolation’ during a period when they are forced to remain in university accommodation, on desolated campuses, with little or no support. John-Baptiste (2020) captures these lives in a vox pop exposing the challenges facing care leavers at university during the coronavirus lockdown, as one interviewee states “I’m self-isolating but I’ve got no-one to support me with that”. It offers a glimpse into the daily reality for those whose lives are too often hidden and poses a question about the ‘corporate parent’ role within universities. In short, it holds a mirror to those tasked with a ‘duty of care’ and a responsibility to provide pastoral support for such a vulnerable group of students during the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.
Original languageEnglish
JournalYouth & Policy
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2020


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