Students with care experience

One of our care experienced alumni talks about her time at Heriot-Watt

How we can help

We recognise that students with care experience are under-represented in higher education and are committed to offering support for you to study at Heriot-Watt.

We offer a named point of contact to support you throughout your time at university:

Edinburgh campus
Emma Smail, Student Wellbeing and Transition Advisor,

Scottish Borders campus
Gillian McLaughlin, Student Advisor,

You can also discuss your care experience and any impact they have on your studies with your personal tutor if you want to.

Remember you can make use of our support as much or as little as you wish.

If you are thinking about coming to university find out how we can help you.

What is care experience?

Anyone who has been or is currently in care or from a looked after background at any stage of their life, no matter how short.  This care may have been provided in one of many different settings, such as in residential care, foster care, kinship care or looked after at home with a supervision requirement.

Heriot-Watt University supports those with care experience in the following ways:

Financial support

If you are care experienced, you are eligible to apply for our Heriot-Watt Access Bursary. Students who are awarded an Access Bursary receive a total of £1,000 for each year of their undergraduate studies. 

Students with care experience are eligible for support towards travel costs for each year of their undergraduate studies.

The Student Award Agency Scotland (SAAS) currently provide a Care Experienced Students Bursary. The Care Experienced Students Bursary is available to eligible full-time Scottish domiciled students undertaking an eligible undergraduate course. You can see more information about this bursary and if you would be eligible.

Other student finance agencies also have support specifically for students with care experience. Make sure you check what you are entitled to.

Get Ready for Success at HWU

Individuals with care experience are encouraged to participate in the Get Ready for Success, a three day event that takes place prior to Welcome Week which helps participants prepare for starting at Heriot-Watt.


The University guarantees to make an offer for accommodation to all eligible students in their first year of study. Please see our accommodation guarantee for full details.

Students with care experience are also eligible for year-round access to University accommodation for the duration of their studies. Visit the accommodation webpage for more information. 

Please email when you apply for accommodation so we can discuss the options available to you.

Advice and support

For advice, guidance and support, contact Emma Smail, Student Wellbeing and Transition Advisor (Edinburgh Campus) or Gillian Mclaughlin, Student Advisor (Scottish Borders Campus).

Corporate Parenting

Over 2016-18 we’ve been taking forward a number of activities to support our role as a Corporate Parent. You can find out what we’ve been doing in our Review Report.  Our most recent Corporate Parent Policy and Corporate Parent Plan covers 2018-21.

The Active Student Programme

During your time at Heriot-Watt you might want to de-stress by engaging in sport and exercise. The Active Student Programme is an option available to you to help you get started, where you are entitled to a free 12-week exercise programme with support from an exercise professional.

For more information regarding referral to this programme please email Emma Smail, Student Wellbeing and Transition Officer (Edinburgh Campus) or Gillian McLaughlin, Student Advisor (Scottish Borders Campus).

Key information

Emma Smail

Job title
Student Wellbeing and Transition Advisor