Students with care experience

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

Are you care experienced? 

Care experience applies to anyone who has been, or currently is, 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. This also includes adopted children who were previously looked after. We will provide support no matter what age you are now.

The above would normally apply to students studying on campus with experience of care in the UK, but with exceptions on a case-by-case basis as appropriate. 

Disclosing care experience 

Heriot-Watt is committed to giving access and opportunities to people who are care experienced and we recognise care experience as one of our widening participation (WP) student groups. By telling us you are care experienced we can provide access to a range of advice, guidance and support to help you succeed at university.  Please be reassured that any information you tell us will be dealt with confidentially. 

In line with the Promise Heriot-Watt is committed to giving equal access and opportunities to people who are care experienced.

You can let us know you are care experienced during the application stage by ticking the box on your UCAS application, emailing, by ticking the box during your enrolment or at any point during your studies by emailing   

How can we support you? 

If you are thinking about coming to university, you can fin out more about how we can help you from our care-experienced students pages.

Advice and support from your dedicated point of contact

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 Wellbeing Advisor,

Additionally, our Student Success Advisors can provide advice from a recent graduate perspective on all aspects of student life:

Edinburgh Campus:

Scottish Borders Campus:

You can also make appointments with Student Success Advisors through the myHWU Portal to discuss any concerns or difficulties you are having at university.

Every student has a member of academic staff allocated to them as a personal tutor who will be a key source of advice, guidance and support during your time at Heriot-Watt.

Ongoing support

We will provide ongoing advice and support throughout your studies. We will contact you regularly via email to ensure you are kept up to date during your studies. We will also offer you the opportunity to chat with us via video call, email, telephone or in person meetings. 


The Student Success Advisors are running a great programme of Wellbeing Events this semester.   Please take a look at the full list of events, all are free, and you are welcome to attend any or all.

Support with Graduation costs

Heriot-Watt students who are care experienced or estranged can apply for support with graduation costs.  If your application is successful, we will award you £150 towards graduation costs. For example, you may choose to use this award for guest tickets, gown hire and/or photographs.  Please contact for further information.

Winter Break Support

Heriot Watt students who are care experienced or estranged will receive communications about support available over the winter break.   If you opt in we will also send you a card and/or a small gift.  Please contact for further information.

Financial support

Heriot-Watt Access Bursary

Prior to starting their studies with us undergraduate students can apply for the Heriot-Watt Access Bursary which if successful provides £1000 extra financial support to help students from widening participation backgrounds with living costs.

Heriot-Watt Expenses Bursary

The Heriot-Watt Expenses Bursary offers eligible undergraduate students up to £525 to help cover the cost of attending university. This could be to purchase a laptop, pay for WiFi access or travel expenses.

Hardship Funds 

Students carers are given priority access to hardship and emergency funding from the Student Union Advice Hub if needed.

A Student Guide to Financial Support at Heriot-Watt

External funding

Care Experienced Students Bursary

The Student Award Agency Scotland (SAAS) currently provide a Care Experienced Students Bursary. The bursary is available to eligible full-time Scottish domiciled students undertaking an eligible undergraduate course.

Care Experienced Accommodation Grant

If you are Care Experienced and need help with your accommodation costs during the summer holiday, you may be eligible to apply for the Care Experienced Accommodation Grant. The maximum SAAS will pay is £105 a week during the summer holiday.

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


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.

Visit the accommodation webpage for more information.  

Please email (Edinburgh Campus) or (Scottish Borders Campus) when you apply for accommodation so we can discuss the options available to you. 

Preparing for University

Get Ready for Success 

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

Pre-Entry Support Meeting 

New students will be invited to a one-to-one meeting with their named point of contact over summer to help ensure you have all the information and support you will need while studying with us.  

If you feel that you should have been contacted to arrange a meeting and haven’t received any communication, you can reach out to  

Ask a Student Success Advisor 

Ask a Student Success Advisor is a one-to-one email based support service available to students who have either an Unconditional Firm (UF) or Conditional Firm (CF) offer of a place at Heriot-Watt. It is an opportunity to ask a Student Success Advisor by email any questions you may have before beginning University. 

Health and Wellbeing

Student Wellbeing Services  

Student Wellbeing Services aim to provide a range of support, guidance and activities and advice to help students be their best and get the most out of their University experience.   

Safety and Security  

The Safeguarding Team are available on campus 24/7, and students have access to the SafeZone app. We also have an on-campus Residence Life team, who provide activities and support, to help ensure you feel welcome and settled if you are staying in halls of residence. 

 The Active Student Programme  

This programme is designed to support you back into exercising or to start exercising in the gym with an aim to improve your mental health and wellbeing. Places are limited and require a referral from a member of the wellbeing team. The active student programme is a 12 week programme.

If you are referred you are given a free 12 week Oriam membership. You also receive an initial consultation, followed by a 6 week review and then a 12 week review. You are supported to set some long (12 week) and short (6 week) goals. If you are interested in finding out more, please email:

Emma Smail, Student Wellbeing and Transition Officer (Edinburgh Campus)

Gillian McLaughlin, Student Wellbeing Advisor (Scottish Borders Campus). 

Corporate Parenting

The University has a Corporate Parenting Plan which details our support for students with care experience.  In common with other Scottish universities and colleges, we are reviewing and enhancing our Corporate Parenting Plan which will outline our support commitments for the next few years.  This will be published early in the 2022-23 academic year. 

External Resources

HUB for SUCCESS – Heriot-Watt is a partner institution with the Hub for Success who provide impartial, one-to-one support to help people with care experience get in, stay in or return to education 

Who Cares Scotland – offer a wide range of groups, activities, and events for care experienced people across Scotland 

EaCES Handbook – A site created by care experienced students to summarise all the advice and information available to support students in higher and further education and to share lived experiences. 

This is Us (community) - An online space to bring together estranged and care experienced students and recent graduates in the UK. The idea is to connect and build student-led spaces, so that we can feel a greater sense of connection and belonging.   

Each & Every Child - aims to tell stories about young people in the care system, transforming the current public narrative and mobilising people at all levels in the community to take action to improve their life chances. 

The Promise – This site is responsible for driving forward change by utilising the findings of the care review. They work with organisations to shift policy, practice and culture in Scotland 

Key information