The University of the Highlands and Islands has introduced a bursary to support care-experienced students to participate in graduation ceremonies.

The bursary, available from this summer, will provide assistance for costs such as gown hire, photography, travel and accommodation.

Research shows that care experienced students, those who spent time in care as a child, often experience financial difficulties during their studies as they are unable to rely on additional support from family.

The university’s new initiative aims to address the barriers care experienced students may face in celebrating their success with their peers.

The University of the Highlands and Islands is one of the first universities in Scotland to introduce a graduation bursary for care experienced students. The development complements the organisation’s commitments as a corporate parenting body which requires all staff to uphold the rights and safeguard the wellbeing of a looked after children or care leavers.

Over 600 students enrolled on further or higher education programmes across the university partnership reported themselves as care experienced in the 2017 to 2018 academic year.

Dr Iain Morrison, Dean of Students, said: “We are immensely proud of our care experienced students and understand they face some particular barriers when it comes to participation at graduation ceremonies.

"We want them to share in the joy of this celebration after all their hard work in gaining their qualification, so I am delighted that the principals of our colleges have agreed to establish this new bursary to enable them to do so. We remain committed to supporting the needs of care experienced students through our corporate parenting plan and working with external partners, including on the newly established Highland Corporate Parenting Board.”

Alan Simpson, President of the Highlands and Islands Students’ Association said: “We are delighted that the university has made this bursary available for care experienced students. It is important that all students have the same chances and opportunities and this a step towards that. Graduation should not be something that any student has to worry about paying for and it’s great that the university has recognised this.”