Understanding Homelessness in Higher Education: Care Leavers’ Accounts

Prof Doc Thesis

Evans, M. 2022. Understanding Homelessness in Higher Education: Care Leavers’ Accounts. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London School of Psychology https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8v5y2
AuthorsEvans, M.
TypeProf Doc Thesis

Background: In England, 6% of care leavers (CLs) access Higher Education (HE) in comparison to 43% of their non-care experienced peers (Department for Education, 2020). Those who do enter HE experience a range of challenges, which increases the likelihood of their withdrawal (Harrison, 2017), including an increased risk of experiencing homelessness (e.g. O’Neill et al., 2019; Stevenson et al., 2020). Despite this being recognised, there is an absence of research exploring CLs’ accounts of homelessness in HE.
Aims: This qualitative research focused on the small number of CLs who have defied the odds in accessing HE and aimed to explore their accounts of homelessness in HE. This research aimed to understand what CLs viewed as contributing to and/or preventing their experiences of homelessness and how they were able to navigate such challenges to remain in HE.
Methodology: Semi-structured interviews were completed with 11 CLs who attended a London university. A thematic analysis was undertaken of the resultant interview data, informed by a critical realist epistemology.
Results: Three main themes were identified: (1) Inappropriate and Unstable Accommodation, (2) Self-Reliance, and (3) Higher Education Can Offer Protection and a Better Future.
Conclusions: This research brings awareness to CLs’ experiences of homelessness and hidden homelessness in HE, highlighting this area as a hidden problem. Despite the additional policy and provision in place for supporting CLs in HE, experiences of homelessness were not prevented. Contributing factors included system failures, structural factors, and relational factors, which were interrelated. Further, this research highlights repeated homelessness throughout the year suggesting CLs experiences of homelessness in HE may be more prevalent than previously considered. The findings highlight how interventions across multiple levels could an bring awareness to, and also prevent, CLs’ experiencing homelessness in HE.

PublisherUniversity of East London
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.15123/uel.8v5y2
File Access Level
Publication dates
Online13 Jan 2023
Publication process dates
Submitted11 Aug 2022
Deposited13 Jan 2023
Permalink -


Download files

License: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0
File access level: Anyone

  • 181
    total views
  • 164
    total downloads
  • 4
    views this month
  • 10
    downloads this month

Export as