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A care leaver who nearly dropped out of his University studies is now undertaking a graduate internship at Sheffield Hallam University, where he is getting the chance to help other students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Chris Hoyle, 27, who spent most of his teenage years in foster care said it was down to the University's support, encouragement and pastoral care that enabled him to complete his graduate diploma in youth and community work last year.

After graduating, Chris, from Scarborough, went on to secure a highly competitive internship within the University's student services department where he works on projects to improve the student experience.

He also volunteers for the pre-enrolment services department where he draws on his personal experiences to encourage and support 'Looked After Children' to go into higher education.

Towards the end of his course, Chris was grappling with a number of personal issues, making it difficult for him to complete his final assignment but it was the support of his tutor that got him through some difficult times.

"My experience at Sheffield Hallam has changed the course of my life," said Chris. "My tutor provided an open and supportive atmosphere for me to talk about my issues and it is down to this intervention that helped me to successfully complete my course.

"I now work with the pre-enrolment team for Looked After Children regularly. The team fully understands the issues that Care Leavers can face at university and I regard Sheffield Hallam as being a 'market leader' in this area.

"I have a lot of pride in working for an organisation that understands that a care leaver sometimes needs a helping hand to be able to even see themselves going to university.

"Just 7% of care experienced young people go on to university while 33% make up the prison population. Education empowers looked after children, extending their range of positive choices for their future that they might not have otherwise considered."

Chris' success story has attracted the attention of the Government's universities minister, David Willetts. During a recent speech and a subsequent visit to Sheffield Hallam, David paid tribute to Chris and the 'fantastic work' of the University's outreach team as well as its commitment to welcoming a diverse student cohort.

Chris Hoyle
Chris Hoyle encourages care leavers to aspire to go into higher education

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During his course, Chris completed two placements, the second of which involved working at a county council in a virtual school, which had a remit to support children living in care, ensuring that they have the best possible chance of benefitting from education.

On completion of his internship with Sheffield Hallam, Chris, who is also a trustee for the charity 'A National Voice' - run for and by young people who have experienced care - hopes to go on to work in a university outreach team, supporting and encouraging other looked after children to follow in his footsteps and pursue higher ambitions for their futures.

"I have, genuinely, never in my life felt so supported, encouraged and 'loved' than I did here at Sheffield Hallam," said Chris. "I had finally found that constant positive presence and I am grateful for the opportunities it has given me."

Rob Harrison, director of educational partnerships in Sheffield Hallam's pre-enrolment services, said: "Sheffield Hallam is a UK leader in raising aspirations among young people who have the ability to benefit from higher education but who come from backgrounds with a lower representation in higher education.

"We run a series of events to raise aspirations among young people who are ‘care experienced' and have recruited 67 Care Leavers since 2008-09. The University has continued to develop its support for Care Leavers and has seen withdrawals drop from six students in 2008-09 to zero for the past two years."

For press information contact: Sarah Duce in the Sheffield Hallam University press office on 0114 225 4025 or email