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Sunday, 25 November, 2001, 00:41 GMT
University scheme for homeless
homeless people
Opening the door to higher education
Homeless people are being encouraged to go to university under a new scheme.

They could receive grants of more than 3,000 to help them make the move.

The scheme has been launched by the charity The Foyer Federation and the Department for Education and Skills.

As many as 300 people who have lived rough around the UK and are staying in hostels known as Foyers will be given 3,150 over three years to attend English universities.

Homeless Big Issue seller
Homeless people are unlikely to get much financial help from their parents
The chief executive of the Foyer Federation Carolyn Hayman said it was the first such scheme of its kind.

"There has been a view that homeless people aren't university material.

"The aim of the new programme is to help these people realise their educational potential and lift themselves out of the conditions which perpetuate their poverty and homelessness."

The idea is that students who are living in Foyer accommodation will use the bursary to help them with living costs during university holidays.

During term-time, they will rely on student loans and keep living in Foyer accommodation.

Generally, they would not be liable for tuition fees.

Carolyn Hayman said: "This is a group of people who will generally receive no financial support from their parents.

"Secondly, they face significant additional costs through having to pay for their own vacation accommodation."

"Far from having savings to fall back on, some are already in debt as a consequence of past chaotic lifestyles."

Hardship funds

The bursaries will be paid through hardship funds operated by individual universities for students starting degrees in September next year.

Sonia was homeless but is now a student at Bradford University, living in Foyer accommodation.

She says it is very hard for people who have been homeless to get into higher education.

"It was difficult getting back into standard education because I hadn't took the normal educational route so universities rejected my application because my qualifications didn't appear to be as valid as straight A-levels even though they were equivalents.


There has been a view that homeless people aren't university material

Carolyn Hayman, The Foyer Federation
"I suppose it would have been a lot easier taking the traditional educational route.

"But due to circumstances not everyone can conveniently follow this way."

At the moment, many homeless people would already be eligible for grants called opportunity bursaries which give funds to students from inner city areas.

Students can apply for these through schools or universities.

The higher education minister Margaret Hodge said: "We recognise the determination of young homeless people in pursuing higher education and their need for extra help to maximise their chances of succeeding in their chosen courses."

Mentors

People who receive the bursaries will also be given extra personal support - in the form of mentors and "project managers" to help them stick to their studies.

The Foyer Federation is a network of hostels - known as Foyers - which were originally set up in France to give homeless people a roof over their heads plus access to education, training and jobs.

The group aims to help homeless people gradually rejoin mainstream society.

People might live in a shared flat or in student-style accommodation.

The first UK foyer was opened in 1992 and there are now 110.

The organisers of the scheme hope it will be extended to all homeless people in future years.

People living in Foyer accommodation who want to apply for a bursary should contact the university or college once they have received an offer of a place.

See also:

16 May 01 | Education
Promise to widen university access
19 Jul 00 | Education
Cash to widen university access
23 Jan 01 | Education
Homeless young 'denied education'
19 Jun 00 | Education
Leg-up for poor students
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