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Updated 20 August 2020


New course helps universities support care experienced students

Care experienced students have helped develop a new free Open University course which will support staff in Scotland’s universities to better understand and support those who have experienced care.

Every college and university in Scotland are a named Corporate Parent under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 which means that they must work to uphold the rights and safeguard the wellbeing of students who have experienced care.

The Corporate Parenting in Higher Education modules raises awareness of what it is like to be care-experienced and the support universities can offer to address the challenges looked after young people face in getting to, staying in and moving on from higher education.

This course was written and co-produced over an 18-month period with care-experienced students, Who Cares? Scotland and the Open University in Scotland in collaboration with 15 other higher education institutions and organisations. It is supported with funding from the Scottish Funding Council and hosted on OpenLearn Create, the Open University’s platform for supporting development, collaboration, and adaptation of online learning resources.

Shona Littlejohn, Depute Director, Student Experience & Widening Access, at The Open University in Scotland, said:

“This course helps staff better understand the unique challenges care-experienced students face in accessing higher education and supports institutions to fulfil their vital role as corporate parents. Every staff member in every college and university has a role to play.

“The Open University in Scotland is delighted to have facilitated the development of this resource which is a practical example of the collaboration expected of Scotland’s corporate parents. The partnership with Who Cares? Scotland, SFC and others in the sector has been invaluable.

“Huge thanks go to the many care-experienced people who contributed to and shaped content. This has helped ensure their voices and experience are central to the resource.”

Claudia Macdonald, Director of Influencing at Who Cares? Scotland, said

“Often it is the first experience with an institution, that creates the lasting impression for a care experienced person. Where this isn’t positive or respectful for the learner because of or in part due to their care experience, this will limit the opportunities universities can provide this able and willing community of learners.

“I believe that many more care experienced learners would consider going to university if they felt reassured that those guiding or delivering their teaching were more conscious of both their duties as corporate parents as well as the lived circumstances of those with experience of care.

“We would encourage all universities to use this module to ensure that the OU are exemplars in delivering a positive learning experience to the Care Experienced community, from their very first interaction to the day they gain their qualification.”

The course supports the Scottish Funding Council’s National Ambition, launched in January 2020, to ensure that care-experienced people have the same opportunity to access higher education as their peers.

Dr Donna MacKinnon, Director of Access, Learning and Outcomes at the Scottish Funding Council, said:

“The module has been carefully designed by the Open University with a great deal of collaboration with other partners. It represents a really practical and positive step forward and I’m very pleased and proud that the Scottish Funding Council has been a part of its development.”

The source files from the course can be used by institutions to develop customised versions for their staff. Some institutions will be making it mandatory in the forthcoming academic year.

The other partners who helped develop the module are:

Abertay University, Care-Experienced, Estranged and Carers East and West Forums, College Development Network, Edinburgh College, Edinburgh Napier University, Glasgow Caledonian University, Heriot-Watt University, The City of Edinburgh Council, The Hub for Success, University of Dundee, The University of Edinburgh, University of Glasgow, University of St Andrews, and the University of the West of Scotland.


New Funding to tackle Digital Exclusion

The Scottish Funding Council has published details of a new £5 million fund to support students at Scottish colleges and universities who are struggling to afford to buy, maintain and connect the equipment they need to benefit from digital learning.

The funding will allow colleges and universities to support around 13,000 learners and purchase a computer device to the value of £350 per learner across both further and higher education.

The money has been made available by the Scottish Government and is part of the additional support for Scotland’s colleges and universities in their fight against the effects of Covid-19.

Full details of this can be found on the Scottish Council’s website or at New Funding to tackle Digital Exclusion





Updated 21 July 2020

Pathways Web App to communicate articulation opportunities between Colleges and Universities in Edinburgh and surrounding SE Scotland
A new Web App – – that allows students and school leavers to look up further and higher education pathways in one place has been launched.

The Pathways Web App was developed by the Regional Learner Passport Partnership (RLPP) and supported by the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) to make pathways that exist across many colleges and universities easier to understand.

The advertising, promotion and understanding of learning options are often complex and difficult for pupils, students and advisers to find and navigate. In recognition of the many institutions and diverse range of courses, the Pathways Web App was established to promote and create efficient and clear routes to Higher Education in and around Edinburgh and the surrounding South-East Scotland area.

The Pathways Web App makes it clear that it is possible to move from college to university with full credit awarded for prior learning and is a distinctive and much admired feature of Scottish post-16 education. Now school leavers and students can look up their college and university options in one single place without contacting numerous institutions.

The Web App was put together in response to The Commission on Widening Access (COWA) outlining that education pathways were a way in which people could access higher education to achieve a degree.

Alistair Sambell, chair of the Regional Learner Passport Partnership said,
“Our colleges and universities came together in this innovative partnership with a shared commitment to improving access to higher education for learners across the region. This web based app was developed with strong input from students themselves, in keeping with our guiding principle of putting students at the heart of our actions.”

Karen Watt, CEO of the Scottish Funding Council said,
“Moving from College to University where you get credit for prior learning is an incredibly important part of the Scottish education system. This Web App will ensure that regardless of your background and regardless of your start in life, you have an opportunity to have a route to higher education and the opportunity to explore the options that are right for you.”

The Regional Learner Passport Partnership

Articulation pathways exist across many colleges and universities, but the advertising, promotion and understanding of the routes is often complex and difficult for pupils, current or potential students and advisers to find and navigate. In recognition of the multi-institutional and diverse nature of learner journeys, the Regional Learner Passport Partnership (RLPP) was established to promote and create efficient and student-orientated routes to Higher Education in and around Edinburgh and the surrounding South-East Scotland area. The Partnership, supported by SFC, consists of a number of institutions based in the wider South East area of Scotland and includes:

Edinburgh Napier University, Queen Margaret University, Heriot Watt University, University of Edinburgh, University of Stirling, The Open University in Scotland, University of St Andrews and SRUC

Edinburgh College, Fife College, West Lothian College, Newbattle Abbey College, Forth Valley College and Borders College

Pathways website

A short video or longer video about the App is available





The Third report from Scotland’s Commissioner for Fair Access – Fair Access to Higher Education: Progress and Challenges Annual Report 2020 – has been published.

This can also be found on the Publications and Resources page


Updated 9 June 2020

Scottish Funding Council news

The Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science has announced a sustainability plan for further and higher education in Scotland in response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the UK’s exit from the European Union.

The plan identifies key actions to address the immediate issues faced by Scotland’s colleges and universities. They include flexibility in funding; the protection of Scotland’s world-leading university research; and new scholarships for EU and international students.

The plan also contains money for additional student support and hardship resources, and £5 million to help offset the costs of equipment for digital learners in need of extra help. An additional focus of the plan will be on enabling colleges and universities to play a key part of Scotland’s economic recovery.

An article containing more details of the plan and of the Scottish Funding Council’s part in its implementation is now available on the Scottish Funding Council website

Coronavirus (COVID-19): Further and Higher Education sustainability plan




Webinars and Online Events

Updated 17 September 2020

Universities of Sanctuary events

25 September – Facilitated Conversation on ESOL Teaching and Learning Online

On September 25th between 11 and 12.30 we invite ESOL tutors and their students to join us for a facilitated conversation to share practice and hear about the creative ways in which groups have responded to the challenges of remaining connected and teaching ESOL online.

Aleks Palanac, an experienced English teacher at Leicester University of Sanctuary, will join us to share how they did it and her reflections on keeping everyone safe online. See her excellent paper A ‘Safe Space’ in ‘Cyberspace’?

Please register below to get a link to this Zoom session which will be largely interactive – sharing practice, identifying challenges and solutions.

Please share this with volunteer ESOL tutors in your area. All are welcome, including ESOL students as we value their experience. Note – this is not an ESOL class.

access this link to register for this facilitated conversation

5-6 October – STAR Conference for Refugee and Asylum Seeking Students in Higher Education

Annual STAR Conference:
Refugee Students invited

This annual conference is specifically for UK university students who are seeking asylum or have refugee status. You should be currently studying or about to start studying at a university in the UK.

Please spread the word to students in your own institutions, and through your networks.

Refugee Scholars Conference, 5-6th October 2020

Are you a student at a UK university from a refugee or asylum seeking background? Join us for our Refugee Scholars Conference!

This online event is organised by graduates from refugee and asylum seeking backgrounds with the support of STAR and Universities of Sanctuary. This will be an opportunity for students from across the country to come together, share their experiences of higher education, and prepare for the new academic year.

The event will take place over two evenings:
Monday 5th October, 5.30pm – 8pm
Tuesday 6th October, 5.30pm – 8pm

Register for the annual STAR event


13-14 October – Universities of Sanctuary Online Conference

open for registrations on Eventbrite

This year we will be bringing a series of sessions and workshops to you virtually in our two-day conference. This is a free event, open to all interested.

It is a particular pleasure that one of the keynote speakers this year will be Alison Phipps of the University of Glasgow. Alison is UNESCO Chair for Refugee Integration through Languages and the Arts, Professor of Languages and Intercultural Studies and co-convener Glasgow Refugee Asylum and Migration Network (GRAMNet). She also chairs Scottish Government’s New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy.

Have a look at the sessions below, precise details will be available nearer the date. Feel free to attend some or all sessions:
Confirmed sessions include:

*Keynote address from Alison Phipps and Daniel Mutanda *Sanctuary Scholars Address *Getting Started on the UoS Journey: Audits, Working Groups and Student Involvement *We Belong: hear from the first UK-wide charity to be set up and run entirely by and for young migrants *ESOL – A Trauma-Informed Approach *STAR (Student Action for Refugees) student campaigns *Student Finance and Humanitarian Protection – A Toolkit *Guidance for Universities Facing Student Removal or Detention *Solidarity in the time of Covid: how do we make sure sanctuary students are supported?

click here to register on Eventbrite


Toolkit Webinars

A series of five pre-recorded webinars has been developed on using the Fair Access Toolkit and carrying out evaluation. Webinars are pre-recorded without an audience and each lasts 20 minutes approximately. Webinars will be retained as a resource on the Fair Access website. This means that practitioners can access these at a time that suits them best and can be watched in sequence or selected for choice of topic.

A real-time virtual workshop which builds on the pre-recorded webinars is planned for the autumn. Further details to follow.

Please accept our apologies for any compromise of sound quality as we work towards facilitating online provision of this resource.

Webinar programme:

1. Using the Toolkit for Fair Access

This webinar introduces viewers to the Scottish Toolkit for Fair Access. We explain the background and purpose of the Toolkit before taking you on a tour of the website and the resources available to help you plan and evaluate your activities. We also outline what SCAPP – Scotland’s Community of Access and Participation Practitioners – is and how it can support you in your work.

You can access Webinar 1 here


2. Assessing evidence for the Toolkit
In this webinar the team who developed the Toolkit for Fair Access explain how they identified and assessed the evidence included in the Toolkit. Watching the webinar will help you understand more about the purpose of different types of evaluation and standard of evidence required for it to be included in the Toolkit.

You can access Webinar 2 here

3. Planning your evaluation

This webinar will help you to plan your evaluation in a structured and systematic way. It outlines the issues you’ll need to consider at the planning stage and the importance of developing a proportionate approach. It also explains how a Theory of Change can help inform your evaluation framework and how you can summarise your theory in a logic model.

You can access Webinar 3 here 

Here are links for the script for the presentation together with a template for the Logic model which is discussed in this webinar

4.  Selecting an appropriate method for your evaluation

This webinar will help you to select the best methods for your own evaluations and increase your confidence in your results. It talks you through the different types of research methods, the types of data they generate and the claims that can be made on the basis of the evidence they produce. We focus on evidencing causality through your evaluation and share our learning on running an RCT.

You can access Webinar 4 here

5. Sharing your findings – writing up and disseminating the results of your evaluation

The final webinar in the series is designed to help you communicate your evaluation findings effectively and achieve maximum impact. It identifies the things you need to include in the write-up of your findings, particularly if you would like your work to be included in the Toolkit in the future, and provides tips on ‘dos and don’ts’ when presenting data.

Access Webinar 5 here

Here are links for the script for the presentation together with Further Reading


Publications, Articles and Resources


National Articulation Forum Final Report 2020

Report on Widening Access, April 2020, SFC

Commission for Widening Access: A Blueprint for Fairness – Final Report of the Commission for Widening Access, March 2016

Commission for Fair Access Annual Report 2019: building on progress towards fair access

Commissioner for Widening Access: Discussion Paper: Access to Postgraduate Study: Representation and Destinations, January 2020

Fair Access to Higher Education: Progress and Challenges, Annual Report 2020 – Commission for Fair Access annual report

Resources and Useful Reading

WONKE – Home of the Higher Education debate

The Guardian Education pages

Holyrood Education pages

UK Research and Innovation works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to create the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish

Higher Education Policy Institute

The Conversation Independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public

Volunteer Scotland has a daily Radio V podcasts on all matter volunteering and learning.

OFS Briefing Note Needs of Students Without Family Support During Pandemic May 2020

Universities of Sanctuary Resource Pack

About the Universities of Sanctuary, how to become a University of Sanctuary, including case studies, useful links and websites.



Moving Widening Participation Outreach Online: Challenge or Opportunity – Jon Rainford, University of Bedfordshire

Our Hub Model can Transform prospects for Young People in Care – Lorraine Moore, Manager, Hub for Success, Edinburgh Napier University. This article appeared in The Scotsman on 2 July 2020

Why Widening Participation Matters More than Ever – View form Scottish HE Sector – Laura Cattell, Head of Widening Participation, University of Edinburgh This article, published on FACE website (Forum for Adult and Continuing Education),  summarises how Covid-19 has heightened the value and necessity of widening participation

Minister lambasts English universities for letting down students – article in the Guardian 1 July 2020


A Strange Speech to Widening Participation Practitioners – article by Alex Blower reflects on a speech on social mobility and concludes that the minister failed to read the room – from WONKHE 5 July 2020


Open University resources

Everyday computer skills (16 hours) is a collaboration between Lead Scotland and the OU in Scotland, with funding from SCVO’s Digital Participation Fund. It’s a digital skills course for beginners, designed with and for disabled people. It covers all you need to know to get online using your computer, tablet or phone, with a focus on accessibility and online safety.


Open University Widening Access and Lifelong Learning Journal

Caring Counts is an OU in Scotland course co-created with carers and carers organisations. It’s intended to help carers reflect on their caring role, and the skills and experiences they’ve gained through it that are transferable to other contexts. It’s particularly useful for carers at a transition, who may be considering returning to work or study. It can be studied online or facilitated as a group course (there’s a guide provided) – which many carers organisations around Scotland have done.

Carers scholarships – the OU is now offering scholarships to carers and young adult carers beginning their studies with them. The criteria for this is that you must have a household income of less than £25k per year. In Scotland, the SAAS part-time fee grant covers module costs for anyone with a personal income of less than £25k. That means that Scottish carers won’t benefit from the scholarship in the same way as their counterparts in other parts of the UK so OU in Scotland will not be promoting it. The good news is that they can study with the OU for free anyway, as 70% of OU students are eligible for the part-time fee grant.

Refugees and asylum seekers
Reflecting on Transitions is an OU in Scotland course co-created with refugees, asylum seekers and other new Scots, in partnership with Bridges Programmes in Glasgow. The course can help learners identify the range of skills and abilities you’ve gained from their personal experiences and plan their next steps into work or study.

OpenLearn has developed a collection for Refugee Week called Understanding Refugee Experiences including a section on Resources for refugees

FutureLearn runs regular ESOL courses by the British Council. Understanding IELTS: Reading is available now (free, 3 weeks long). Understanding IELTS: Listening begins on 6 July.

The RefER project identified a range of online resources for refugee learners and those supporting them. You can read the report here or access the interactive document with links to those resources.

If you are using open educational resources with refugees and asylum seekers, you or your learners are invited to share your experiences on the Refugee Learning Stories blog. This is an open space, so anyone is welcome to contribute and posts can be anonymous if you prefer. There are some interesting posts for you to browse – from using Whatsapp as a language learning tool to university scholarships for asylum seekers in Dublin.

The Scottish Refugee Council has produced a short film called I Hear You for Word Refugee Day 2020

Anti-racism resources
Very topical at the moment and of critical importance to educators, many anti-racism resources are being made available for free just now. The Service Design in Scotland Network has compiled an interactive Padlet of resources called Black Lives in Scotland. You can explore links to resources or contribute to the Padlet yourself.

OpenLearn resources

Collection of mental health and wellbeing resources
Family friendly hub
Furloughed workers resources (in partnership with My World of Work)
Taking your teaching online
Open Pathways – an interactive guide for learners beginning their journey on OpenLearn

Managing your money for young adults (24 hours) is a course aimed at young people moving away from home to work or study. It comes with guidance for teachers on adapting for the classroom.

Making your learning count is a 30 credit module that allows you to gain credit for OpenLearn course and other informal learning.

Bullying and Manipulation: Join the Resistance interactive resource exploring bullying at work, school and even on Twitter at the hands of Donald Trump.

Citizen science and the data avalanche series of videos on how to become a citizen scientist

Climate justice for the next generation (7 hours, intermediate level) a new course that frames global warming and climate change in terms of social justice, human rights and intergenerational equality and emphasises how children and those least responsible for climate change are the ones who suffer its most significant consequences.

How to talk about race short video talking about race with comedian Munya Chawawa. A BBC / Open University collaboration.

Employability Resources

In partnership with the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), the OpenLearn team has curated a collection of employability and digital skills resources, as well as functional English and Maths:

Internships and other work experiences (24 hours) is a brand new course for those who want to learn more about internships and other work experience options available, and explore how you can obtain and maximise the right opportunities to support your chosen career.

Digital skills: succeeding in a digital world (24 hours) is a new version of the existing ‘Digital literacy: succeeding in a digital world’ course with updated content reflecting changes in the digital landscape over the last few years.

Start your career with OpenLearn is a collection aimed at people leaving education and looking for some career support.

Covid-related resources

Coping in isolation: time to think – course trailer a short video for the course in which two Open University graduates reflect on the current COVID-19 lockdown. They offer some insights into their study experiences while imprisoned in the 1970s and 1980s, and suggest ways to adjust to the current pressures facing people across the globe.

Young carers, COVID-19 and physical activity article outlining an Open University study around carers and their relationship with physical activity during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Articles and Papers

Why Widening Participation Matters more than Ever – View from the Scottish HE Sector written by Laura Cattell, Head of Widening Participation at the University of Edinburgh,  published on FACE website (Forum for Adult and Continuing Education)

Student ambassadors: “role-models”, learning practices and identities’ published by Dr Clare Gartland from the University of Suffolk – paper presented at LEAPS/SCAPP event on 25th June 2020 “Working effectively with Student Ambassadors and Volunteers in Widening Participation Projects

Presentation from webinar Working Effectively with Student Ambassadors and Volunteers in Widening Participation Projects – presentation by Dr Clare Gartland on 25 June 2020

Using the Lens of ‘Possible Selves’ to Explore Access to Higher Education: A New Conceptual Model for Practice, Policy, and Research  Neil Harrison, Department of Education and Childhood, University of the West of England

Information for Volunteers

Volunteer Scotland has a daily Radio V podcasts on all matter volunteering and learning.

 Keeping Volunteers Safe: Restarting your Volunteer Programme this  10 hour  course covers the key considerations to ensure a positive experience for those returning to volunteering following COVID-19. It’s hosted on OpenLearn Create as part of the OU’s Centre for Voluntary Sector Leadership collection and you can gain a certificate of participation and digital badge participation on completion of the course. More information about Volunteer Scotland’s online learning here.


Information to support Care Experienced and Estranged Students

Carers Trust Scotland have produced a video with BBC Scotland called Things You Should Know About Young Carers (1 minute) featuring young people talking about what their caring role involves.


Student Finance, Research, Campaigns 

Stand Alone summer update

Campaign for financial support for estranged and care-experienced students and graduates without family support

Stand Alone has been working in collaboration with a number of charities to raise awareness of the impact of Covid 19 on higher education students without parental / family support and to lobby governments for additional financial support for these students.

We published a survey at the start of lockdown on the challenges these students were facing due to Covid 19. We have written about the issue in the press, have taken part in Scottish Government consultations and are in discussions with the DfE and Welsh Government.

Our most recent ‘summer hardship’ survey report will be published shortly alongside an open letter from an estranged student.

Applying to SAAS: Financial Support for Estranged Scottish Students

Applicants need to let SAAS know that they are estranged from parents when applying for support.

A student is eligible to be considered for independence on the basis of being estranged if:
• they are not in contact with both their parents and
• there’s been a permanent breakdown in the relationship, and there is no sign of this being resolved in the future

Applicants are sent the Evidence of Estrangement form, and they return the completed form using the ‘Document Upload’ service in their SAAS Account. The form must be endorsed by a professional person who knows the student’s circumstances, such as: teacher / doctor / counsellor / college or university student advisor / lawyer / solicitor / police officer / family mediation worker / social worker / etc.

If the student doesn’t have a professional person to confirm they are estranged then they should still complete the estranged evidence form and explain why this is the case in section B. SAAS will contact them if they need any further information.

SAAS case workers assess all applications from estranged students on a case-by-case basis. If any further information is required when processing an application for estrangement SAAS will contact the student directly.

You can find information about the Student Information Scotland website here

Student Finance England ‘Estrangement Form 20/21’: Advice and best practice

Practitioners feedback since the form’s inception has been very positive as it gives step by step guidance to supporting those students without any suitable evidence and an opportunity to request a SFE caseworker should a further discussion be needed and a future telephone interview.

In the past some staff in institutions have been reluctant to sign the form as they felt they were confirming a certain situation was true.

Staff now no longer need to known the student for any length of time to sign the new form, therefore removing a major barrier to proving estrangement. The new form specifically directs students without evidence to student services as in many cases staff may either know their circumstances and be able to confirm them or alternatively, can suggest sources of evidence that can confirm their situation and would be acceptable. If you are not able to sign the form though, you should send it to SFE with an email explaining why and ask for the student to be referred to a case worker.

It is also important to note that the form is not a compulsory part of the estrangement process and evidence will continue to be accepted as it has been in a variety of formats.

Please bear in mind when speaking to a student about the form to be aware of the potential sensitivity of individual student’s circumstances and the potentially traumatic experiences that have led to a breakdown in the relationship with their parents and often also their wider family. Conversations should be conducted with care and confidentiality and not probe into details of student’s personal experiences and their estrangement.

House keeping: The new Form was released in Jan 2020. Please delete the old version and familiarise yourself with the new version.

Click here for the new form on the SLC webpage

You may also find the SLC Funding Information Team monthly bulletin useful which you can access via this webpage, and where you can also post feedback:

A guide to help estranged students write their personal statement
Stand Alone has worked with UCAS to produce guidance for estranged students on how to write their personal statement. A group of estranged students compiled a set of unique skills and positive personal strengths these students may have developed as a result of their experiences.

Click here for more information

New Stand Alone research report: Family Estrangement and the Covid 19 Crisis

This survey set out to explore the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on estranged family relationships.

This research was conducted by Dr Lucy Blake at Edge Hill University, Dr Becca Bland at Stand Alone, and Dr Sarah Foley and Dr Susan Imrie at the Centre for Family Research at the University of Cambridge.

Click here to read the report

The Stand Alone Pledge

Emerging from lockdown and planning for a restructured delivery of the new academic year provides higher education institutions with a unique opportunity to fully address the different needs of a diverse student body.

So this is also a time to sign the Stand Alone Pledge or use your Pledge to shape the support for estranged students to ensure their needs are recognised and they feel part of their university community.

Click on the Pledge logo to link to the Pledge website


Updated 5 August 2020

Covid-19 Survey – Summary of resources

Following the survey on responses and challenges of Covid-19 which was distributed in May, please find the link below for the summary of the responses. There are key points and actions on page one, followed by an executive summary of the main points under themes, then followed by responses per question for those readers who wish to see the full set of responses.

I hope that this provides insightful, interesting and useful reading.

Covid-19 Survey Responses Summary