Changing lives: improving care leaver access to higher education

Jacqueline Z. Wilson, Andrew Harvey, Philip Mendes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Australian and international research documents the limited access of young people transitioning from out-of-home care (OOHC) to further and higher education. This paper examines the processes, outcomes, and key findings of the Raising Expectations project, a collaborative university and industry approach to promote higher education among care leavers at two Australian universities. That approach was informed by the co-authors' previous research, including interviews with enrolled care-leaver students. The paper highlights the relevance of that research in the design and implementation of Raising Expectations. Our findings reiterate the importance of policy and practice reforms informed by rigorous research, particularly involving the voices and agency of care leavers. We outline strategies adopted by the participating universities resulting in a fourfold increase in enrolments, growth in school outreach activities, and significantly improved retention rates. The paper also highlights barriers to higher education access and success, through care-leaver student interviews and policy analysis. These interviews revealed the need for better university outreach and information to prospective care-leaver students, improved support for enrolled care-leaver students, and better capturing of data by universities and governments. The paper also highlights policy barriers to the greater expansion of care-leavers at university, especially in the absence of extended state care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)573-586
Number of pages14
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2019


  • access to higher education
  • Care leavers
  • higher education policy
  • transitioning from out-of-home care

Cite this