National Care Leavers Week: Gerard’s story

Gerard Murphy is a final year Biology (Industrial) student, who has used his experiences as a care leaver to help others through outreach work. As part of National Care Leavers Week, Gerard tells his story and we shine a spotlight on work at the University to support students who have been in public care.

“I had a tough time coming to university,” Gerard begins. “My household as a child was unstable to say the least, so I spent time in and out of care throughout my teens. During my final year of sixth form I was homeless. My school tried as much as they could to help but their hands were tied as I wasn’t yet 18 so couldn’t yet receive help from adult services, and children services could only support me for a short time.

“My school, however, was able to help me by making me aware of the Access to Leeds scheme which was perfect for me as Leeds was my top choice. The scheme was very helpful and prepared me and two of my friends for university life.”

Gerard looking through a microscope
Gerard looking through a microscope
Gerard studying in a University lab

Access to Leeds works with students who want to study an undergraduate degree with us but whose background means they are statistically less likely to attend university

Students benefit from a reduced offer and the chance to build familiarity with what’s expected at university through contact with academic tutors and students before they arrive.

The extra financial support has allowed me to pass barriers that would have otherwise prevented me from making the most out of my time here at Leeds.

Gerard continues: “I was originally worried about starting university, but I quickly made friends on my course, in my accommodation and my scholar group. Due to my circumstances prior to university living on my own self-dependently, I found it easy to settle in. I was even able to help my friends adjust to life away from home.

Gerard on a sub-aqua society trip to the Canary Islands
Gerard on a sub-aqua society trip to the Canary Islands
Gerard on a sub-aqua society trip to the Canary Islands

“I joined lots of extra-curricular societies and in my second year I would go onto be President of the Duke of Edinburgh Award Society, which was very rewarding. I have been able to take part in so many societies and field courses as I am fortunate enough to be in receipt of a scholarship. The extra financial support has allowed me to pass barriers that would have otherwise prevented me from making the most out of my time here at Leeds.”

On arrival at the university, students who have been in public care can benefit from free kitchen and bedding packs and the offer of help with travel costs, such as van hire or couriers, to move belongings to campus.

Students can also access guaranteed 365-day accommodation, acknowledging that for many students the University will be their home for the duration of their studies.

Students who are care-experienced can also apply for various scholarships, and are eligible for Leeds Financial Support, worth up to £2000 for each year of study, and the Opportunity Fund, supporting employability activity such as attending academic conferences. There is also funding available for taking part in LUU clubs and societies.

In recognition of the events of 2020, additional financial support has been provided for this group of students, including £500 payments for graduating care-experienced students to help with their progression onto the next stage of their lives, and £500 for returning care experienced students to help with costs over summer after part-time work may have been disrupted.

It has been a truly humbling experience to help those from a similar background as me aspire to study at university.

Gerard on a field course to South Africa
Gerard on a field course to South Africa
Gerard on a field course to South Africa

“The highlight of my course has been the numerous field courses I have taken part in, such as a trip to the south of Spain to study ecology in an arid environment,” says Gerard.

“I’ve also just returned from my year in industry in a food and environment analysis laboratory in the Scottish Borders. I had an amazing employer who was truly invested in my education.

“Although I originally enrolled onto a BSc program, I have been given the opportunity to advance onto the integrated Masters program to enhance my subject knowledge.

“But my biggest achievement whilst at Leeds has been working with the Educational Engagement department on various outreach roles. It has been a truly humbling experience to help those from a similar background as me aspire to study at university.”

As Christmas approaches, care leavers and others can take part in our Christmas in Leeds activities, providing the chance to meet others and take part in Christmas traditions, film and games nights and volunteering opportunities.

Find out more about Access to Leeds eligibility, how to apply and contact details.

University of Leeds

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Sharing news and research from the University of Leeds.

University of Leeds

The University of Leeds was founded in 1904, and its origins go back to the nineteenth century with the founding of the Leeds School of Medicine in 1831.

University of Leeds

Written by

Sharing news and research from the University of Leeds.

University of Leeds

The University of Leeds was founded in 1904, and its origins go back to the nineteenth century with the founding of the Leeds School of Medicine in 1831.

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