Tick The Box

The Fostering Network's #TickTheBox campaign works with people with care experience, UCAS, NNECL and universities and colleges across the UK to encourage people with care experience to tick the box on their UCAS application to say they have spent time in care when they apply for further and higher education and ensure they can access the support they are entitled to.

tick the box logo, orange with white text


People who have experience of care should be able to aim high and fulfil their potential, which might include going to college or university. Our nation-wide #TickTheBox campaign encourages people with care experience to tick the box when applying to study via UCAS to say they have spent time in care, so they can get the support they may need, to help them enter and thrive at college or university.

This year, the campaign will run during care leavers week from the 25 October - 1 November 2023.

From 2008-2022, the number of people ticking the box more than doubled – but there is still a long way to go.

Why is there a campaign?

We know that people with care experience are unrepresented at higher and further education and many do not know about the support available to them and we want to change that. 

The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of people with care experience ticking the box on their UCAS application to say they have experience of care so that universities and colleges know that they are entitled to support before and during their studies. It also aims bust the common myth and reassure those with concerns about who the information will be shared with when they tick the box, highlighting that the information will only be shared with the people who need to know to support them.

The campaign also aims to help raise aspirations for those with care experience who may or may not be considering higher or further education, showing them the possibilities open to them by sharing the amazing stories of people with care experience and their journeys at university or higher education and why ticking the box made such a difference. It is also a chance to celebrate the good practice from higher and further education institutions and encourage all to provide excellent support to people with care experience so they can enter and thrive at university


What support is available?

The support on offer will be different at every college and university, and can range from additional financial support, in the form of a bursary, to practical support to help care leavers settle in, find accommodation or manage finances. You can find out what support you can access at each institution on Become’s Propel website.

Some universities will take care-experience into account when making an offer. This is called a contextualised or adjusted offer, and is often a grade or two lower than a standard offer. Each university has a different applications process, which they will explain on their website.

Colleges and universities will treat the information about care-experience as confidential and will not label or negatively discriminate against a student because they have been looked-after.

For foster carers 

You can also find information about how to inspire and encourage care leavers to consider college or university as an option in Become’s guide for teachers, parents and carers.

For young people  

Become also offer workshops for young people on your rights and entitlements, applying to higher education and funding for higher education. Find out more and book.


Support the campaign

You can help us spread the word about #TickTheBox in several ways: 

  • Retweet posts from our twitter accounts @fosteringnet and @tfn_campaigns during the campaign week from 25 October - 1 November.

  • If you are a person with care experience or foster carer that wants to share your experiences of ticking the box and being at university or higher education, or supporting a young person that is, get in touch with us at campaigns@fostering.net to find out more. You can write a blog, share a quote, photo or video to go on our social media, sharing your experiences and helping to inspire others to tick the box.  

  • If you work for a university or higher education college and want to get involved, get in touch with us at campaigns@fostering.net to find out more. We are always look for universities or higher education colleges to get involved and share how they support people with care experience to enter and thrive in education. 


#TickTheBox events

Events in Northern Ireland

Our #TickTheBox campaign launch in Northern Ireland is happening on Monday 30 October 2023 at Ulster University, Belfast. The event includes an information fair, tours of the university, presentations by The Fostering Network, Queen’s University Belfast, Ulster University, a looked after young person and a foster carer.  To book a place email events@fostering.net.

The following universities and colleges are also happy to welcome young people for individual or group tours: 

  • Queen's University, Belfast
  • Stranmillis University College, Belfast
  • St Mary’s University College, Belfast
  • All further education institutions across Northern Ireland including Northern Regional College, North West Regional College, Belfast Metropolitan College, South Eastern Regional College, South West Regional College and Southern Regional College.

#TickTheBox webinar 2022

The webinar provided an opportunity for people with care experience, foster carers, social workers and anyone interested in learning more about the application process, the support available, finances, accommodation and more and ask any questions they had. Access the slides from each presenter below:
  • Nicola Turner, Senior Fair Access Adviser, UCAS
  • Charmaine Valente, Funding Information Services Account Manager, Student Loans Company
  • Sian Edwards, Communications Officer, NNECL,
  • Lena Smith, Transitions Officer, Cardiff University
  • Wendy Price, Head of Widening Access and Participation, University of Sunderland
  • Nina Gatt, LEEP Programme, Inverness College, University of the Highlands and Islands
  • Paul Cassidy, Community Outreach Officer, Ulster University




Useful links highlighted in the webinar
  • Propel - a website made by Become, listing all the support available at higher education institutions for students with care experience.
  • Care Leaver Local Offer - allows people with care experience to compare different local authorities to discover how they support care leavers and encourage councils to improve support in multiple areas.
  • Student Finance Resources - up to date advice for UK Care Leavers hosted on NNECL's website. 
  • ‘How to’ guide - Student Finance England
  • NNECL's quality mark - list of institutions with the quality mark
  • This is Us - Unite Foundation scholarship and This is Us Community group for people with care experience
  • UCAS support - Advice on supporting care experienced students through the UCAS application process. 
Are there any organisations supporting care experienced people through apprenticeship schemes?
  • Care Leavers Covenant have created a webpage with over 2000 opportunities across the UK covering employment, training and holistic support along free tickets and discounts for people with care experience. 
  • Civil Service Care Leavers Internship Scheme gives care leavers the chance to benefit from a 12-month paid internship in a central Government department/agency, with the possibility of the post being made permanent at the end of the 12 months.
What happens if a young person in care doesn't have a passport? Does this mean they can't apply to student finance? 

You can apply to student finance with a birth certificate, which will be accepted by Student Finance. You can ask your social worker or personal advisor to get a copy for you. 

Do PGCE programmes have a care experienced tick box?

Nicola from UCAS explained: Any teacher training applications via UCAS in Wales and Scotland do allow students to share if they are care experiences as with the undergraduate application. However, those in England now apply via the Department for Education website instead of UCAS.

Is the Basic Income pilot in Wales only available to Care Leavers under care of Welsh authorities?

The basic income pilot is only available for young people under the care of Welsh local authorities and does not apply to Care Leavers under English authorities who are living/studying in Wales. You can read more about the pilot here.

Are SAAS payments only avilable if you live in Scotland? 

The eligibility for SAAS payments are:

  • The Care Experienced Students Bursary (CESB) is available to eligible full-time students taking an undergraduate course.
  • You may be eligible to claim the CESB if you’ve ever been looked after by a Local Authority in the UK, before you turned 18.

For more information, click here.


The Fostering Network’s Tick the Box campaign was developed in conjunction with the University of Ulster and the Health and Social Care Board in Northern Ireland. Read their publication Pathways to Further and Higher Education for Looked After and Care Experienced Young People.