From education to employment

The Unite Foundation calls on all universities to act now to prevent care experienced students being blocked from finding accommodation at University

students on computer

There are currently 16,000 care experienced and estranged students at university in the UK, yet many of them struggle to find somewhere to live or complete their studies – simply because they cannot find a rent guarantor. 

The UK rental market is in crisis and landlords are requesting rent guarantors from university students as standard. A rent guarantor is a person, company or organisation that agrees to secure or ‘guarantee’ someone’s tenancy agreement or contract. Most students can ask a parent, but care experienced and estranged students are unable to provide a rent guarantor because they don’t have access to a family member to help them. 

Despite this, only 36% of universities offer rent guarantor services or signpost help on their website. This is why the Unite Foundation (a charity offering scholarships and accommodation to care experienced students) is launching the ‘Be Our Guarantor’ campaign to ask all UK universities to provide care experienced students with a rent guarantor service.

Fiona Ellison, director of the Unite Foundation, explains:

“We want universities to step in and provide a rent guarantor service for students who don’t have a parent or family member to ask. It’s a simple ask and low-risk for universities. Universities providing a rent guarantor service for care experienced and estranged students helps to level a very uneven playing field and makes sure those students are not unfairly disadvantaged when it comes to finding accommodation.”

“We shouldn’t let a simple issue, like not having access to a rent guarantor, be something that stops care experienced and estranged students from completing their degrees and reaping the lifelong benefits.”

Sam, a care experienced student in Glasgow is one of the students supporting the ‘Be Our Guarantor’ campaign, she says:

“There have been times where I’ve been homeless or facing it and the guarantor issue has been a major cause of stress and upset. I’ve gotten some great help and advice over the years from different organisations but none of them could provide a guarantor for me. It makes me feel like I will always be treated differently to those with family support networks, because the issue comes up time and time again.”

A Universities UK (UUK) spokesperson, emphasises:

“Universities are continuing to work hard to improve support for care experienced and estranged students. We encourage universities to build on their great work by offering more bespoke support to the most vulnerable students. It’s important that students from these backgrounds do not feel left behind in higher education due to this issue, which can have a negative impact on their studies. The Be Our Guarantor campaign is a great initiative which helps to highlight the challenges many care experienced and estranged students face when trying to find somewhere to live and the impact it has on their university experience.”

A Unite Students spokesperson said:

“Unite Students is fully committed to helping students from care experienced and estranged backgrounds. Over the last decade, our funding to the Unite Foundation has helped to support more than 600 students with rent-free accommodation via their scholarship…”

“We know students who don’t have access to a rent guarantor can be disproportionally affected during their time at university, so we welcome and fully support the Unite Foundation’s campaign. For care experienced or estranged students who are not Foundation scholars, we are happy to accept a UK university as their named rent guarantor.”

Universities like Cardiff, Edinburgh, Sheffield and UCL already provide students who need it with a rent guarantor service.

The Unite Foundation’s ‘This is Ten Years of Impact’ report shows that given the right support (somewhere to live), care experienced students complete their degrees at the same rate as non-care experienced students and are awarded top rate degrees at the same rate too. But finding stable accommodation without a rent guarantor is almost impossible, which is why universities need to act now.

To read more about the rent guarantor issue and how universities can help care leavers, please visit:

Sector Response

Paul Foy, CEO of RentGuarantor, offers the following quote on the issues discussed above:

“RentGuarantor calls on universities to help prevent care experienced and estranged students from being blocked from finding accommodation at university. A student’s ability to study should never be held back by their living situation, and a secure guarantor is a foundational part of ensuring this.

“We are proud to support students from across the socio-economic spectrum and will continue to offer our services to the UK’s 16,000 care experienced and estranged students.”

Related Articles