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The Buttle UK Quality Mark For Care Leavers

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The Buttle UK Quality Mark 2006 - 2015

The Quality Mark for Care Leavers was awarded to universities recognising their commitment to care-experienced students.

The award has now expired for most of the institutions though they continue to offer support and advice. All awards will have expired by 2017. A list of institutions that achieved the award can be found on our universities and colleges webpages. 

Where to find information and advice: the Propel website

To find the support offered by individual universities and colleges across the UK please visit the Propel websitePropel is an extensive online resource providing information and advice on how to apply to higher education and how to access support. It also lists other organisations that might be able to help with advice or advocacy. Propel is run by The Who Cares? Trust and will be live from late September 2015.

Best Practice Guides and other Quality Mark resources

The Quality Mark Framework provided a set of criteria for colleges and universities to audit and develop their existing support.

NIACE (National Institute for Adult Continuing Education) has compiled a Best Practice Guide for Further Education Colleges. You can download it from the NIACE website: The Guide is based on the the Quality Mark Framework criteria and showcases experiences by award-holding colleges.

A Best Practice Guide for Universities is currently in preparation and will be published in Spring 2016 by Action on Access

Some of the experiences of institutions and students are on our case studies and student stories webpages. 

As part of the Quality Mark monitoring process Buttle UK gathered statistical data from award-holding universities and colleges each year. The reports are on our publications page. 

Also on the publications page are the original 'By Degrees' research report (2005) which gave rise to the Qualitiy Mark (see below) as well as the 'Impact in HE' report (2013) and the FE Pilot report (2011). 


Over many years, Buttle UK’s grant-giving activity brought to light the need for more support for care leavers to go to university. To explore the experiences of the noticeably small number of care leavers actually going to university Buttle UK commissioned a piece of action research between 2000-2005. The research was fully funded by grant making trusts and Government sources, and was undertaken by Sonja Jackson and colleagues from the Thomas Coram Research Unit of the Institute of Education, University of London. A cohort of 50 care leavers a year entering higher education over three years took part in the research. The research findings were published in the final Report “By Degrees: Going to University from Care" launched at a conference in 2005 in London.

The research was the first step in understanding the issues and providing systematic evidence of the barriers for care-experienced young people going to university. The next step was to advise and work with governments, local authorities, universities and colleges to

  • raise awareness of the specific needs of this cohort
  • increase the number of students from a care background progressing to higher education
  • support them to succeed in their course
  • improve collaboration between local authorities / Health and Social Care Trusts and education institutions.

To achieve the above, the Quality Mark for Care Leavers was established in 2006 following in-depth consultation with the higher education sector.  In response to requests from the further education sector, the Quality Mark was extended to colleges in 2012.

Through the Quality Mark Framework, which set out a series of criteria, the Quality Mark provided a tool for intuitions to assess their provision for care leavers and develop their operational and strategic approach to supporting this cohort of students. In order to be awarded the Buttle UK Quality Mark universities and colleges had to offer a minimum level of support to care leavers as identified in the research, and demonstrate their commitment to improving their provision. The Quality Mark Assessment Panel supported institutions in developing this support. The Panel was also responsible for monitoring institutions'progress.

Across the university and college sector the Quality Mark acted as a driver for change and many institutions held the award over many years.

in 2006 the first 7 universities gained the award based on their commitment to support care leavers to gain access to and succeed in higher education. By 2009 a further 48 universities had joined the scheme. In 2010 the first further education colleges signed up to a pilot scheme and paved the way for the award to being made available to all colleges from 2012. At the end of the Buttle UK Quality Mark project in July 2015 a total of 114 universities and 85 colleges across the UK had achieved the award.

In 2014, having achieved its original aims and objectives, and more, Buttle UK felt that it was the right time to hand over the continued development and embedding of support for care-experienced students to the higher and further education sectors. The Buttle UK Quality Mark for Care Leavers concluded after nearly 15 years on 31 July 2015.

Without financial support from external funders the Quality Mark would not have been possible. Buttle UK would like to thank all the funders for their support over the years, including: Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, KPMG Foundation, Freemasons' Grand Charity, Sylvia Adams Charitable Trust, Calouste Galbenkian Foundation UK, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Pilgrim Trust, Department for Education, Learning and Skills Council, Welsh Government, Department for Education and Learning Northern Ireland, Scottish Funding Council. 

If you would like to find out more about the impact and achievements of the Quality Mark project please read our summary report.



   QM colleges

    QM Universities



The Quality Mark was supported by

Higher Education Funding Council For England

Action on Access
Association of Colleges Guild HE logo
Colleges Northern Ireland Scottish Funding Council
AMOSSHE Higher Education Funding Council for Wales
Office for Fair Access
UCAS Universities UK logo
  NASMA logo