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Profile picture of Gillian Elvidge.

PhD Researcher

When I looked into the bigger picture to see what research had been done about Care Experienced and Estranged students, there wasn’t much at all. So, I was encouraged to undertake the research myself.

Why I chose to do a PhD at Leeds Trinity

I previously worked in the Marketing team at Leeds Trinity, as the University’s Care Experienced and Estranged Student Contact for four years, I am focusing on this area for my postgraduate research, for which I was awarded a studentship for.

Gillian Elvidge outside atrium.

My passion about this project led me to leave my full-time position in February 2021 to embark on my PhD study (due to be completed in 2024). Having previously supported Care Experienced and Estranged students to get into higher education, as well as support them on campus, I was involved in many discussions about best practice and the issues these students faced.

When I looked into the bigger picture to see what research had been done about Care Experienced and Estranged students, there wasn’t much at all. So, I was encouraged to undertake the research myself.

How my own experiences shaped my research

In my previous role, I was all too aware that there was a likelihood of these students withdrawing, and the last thing I wanted to do was recruit students and feel that I could be setting them up to fail. I know the barriers and how the students can feel as I was estranged from my mum when I was a university student and my father worked abroad. This lived experience gives me a great understanding to be able to help others.

Study 1. Data Collection

My first study involved data collection from for other universities from the North of England, all of different sizes and courses offered, to analyse the support they offered care experienced and estranged students.

The research so far has yielded really positive things and highlighted innovative practice from very passionate people working in these areas. I have looked into the time and resources available that could support the whole student life-cycle.

Study 2. Speaking to care experienced and estranged students at university

The next stage of my research will focus on speaking directly to care experienced and estranged students at their universities to find out more about their lived experience. I will seek to identify the disconnect in this group, what support has been offered and how that compares to what they need to experience.

Data collection is very sparse on this subject as it often relies on self-reporting, which isn’t easy. So the research will be extremely valuable.

Gillian Elvidge outside SU.

Desired research outcomes

I hope to identify new potential avenues for better practice that would:

  • Support more care experienced and estranged students in successfully completing their studies
  • Identify more to come forward and share their experiences
  • Help amplify their voices and enhance the understanding about feeling marginalised and vulnerable

What the studentship has offered me

Whilst I’m only one third of the way through my research, my lived experience is really helping to understand why these students don’t come forward and always feel in a position to ask for help. I have already presented my study at a conference and it was very well received.

Staying involved on campus

Having previously worked at the University and utilised the support of student ambassadors, I am now one myself! On top of this I also have teaching hours in sociology, splitting my time between ICE and Criminology. Through this I have uncovered a really strong passion for teaching.