From education to employment

The Open University and John Lewis offer young people who experienced care the opportunity for free study

students walking through gate

The Open University has launched a new programme in collaboration with the John Lewis Partnership, to offer young people with experience of being in care the opportunity to study an undergraduate qualification for free.

Young people who have spent time in care can face many significant barriers to entering and succeeding in higher education. This scholarship has been designed to provide care experienced young people a life changing opportunity to study for a higher education qualification with the UK’s largest distance learning provider.

The Care Experienced Scholarship is launching for the first time in 2023/24, offering four full undergraduate scholarships to young people aged 25 and under, who have spent time in care and have faced significant barriers to entering and succeeding in higher education.

The scheme is closely linked to the John Lewis Partnership’s existing ‘Building Happier Futures’ programme, which looks to support, harness the talent, and improve the lives of young people who have grown up in care. 

The Care Experienced Scholarship also forms part of a series of scholarships offed by The Open University, worth £3 million in total, which aim to open doors for people who might not otherwise be able to afford to study for an undergraduate degree.

Professor Tim Blackman, Vice Chancellor at The Open University, said:

“We want to ensure that young people who have been in care have the same chances and opportunities in life as other young people. Education enables students to pursue their passions, to be creative, curious, and develop lifelong skills and knowledge that can unlock brighter futures and careers. It is an experience that should be open to everyone.

“The flexibility of the OU in enabling part-time study while working and offering the opportunity to study from anywhere in the country, means that we are well placed to support young, care-experienced students to succeed with us. In the current financial climate, we are pleased to offer this additional financial support which we hope will remove further obstacles to study.”

Sharon White, Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership, comments:

“Too few young people leaving the care system are given the opportunities they deserve. In fact, more young people are likely to be made homeless than go to university.

“This scholarship programme is a significant moment in ensuring we start to correct that inequality, as well as to harness the exceptional talents and abilities of the care experienced community. We are therefore delighted to be working alongside The Open University to provide this opportunity for care experienced young people and to help them discover all the incredible things they’re capable of.

“This is just the start and we are committed to flying the flag for the care community for the long term to ensure they not only feel seen and heard, but empowered and supported to reach their fullest potential.”

The OU is the UK’s largest university, which has 50 years’ experience in supported distance learning and currently has more than 208,000 students.

Students learn through a combination of distance learning and face-to-face online tutor support;  71 per cent of students are already in work and 75 per cent of students had no formal Higher Education qualifications on entry.

Those who successfully apply for the scholarship can study flexibly, including spreading their learning over more than three years if they wish, to fit in with family or existing work commitments.

Since 2014, the OU has awarded over 434 scholarships and hundreds of bursaries worth over £10million, thanks to the generosity of OU alumni, supporters, and friends.

The deadline for applications is midnight on 26 July 2023. For more information and full Terms & Conditions of the Care Experienced Scholarship, and to apply for one of the four places available, visit the application pages:

The Care Experienced Scholarship:

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