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Loughborough graduate overcomes the odds to complete her degree and inspire other care leavers to go to university

Motivated to beat the statistic that only 6% of care leavers go to university and even fewer finish their degree, Kim Emenike is graduating from Loughborough University with a 2:1 in International Business.

Kim went into foster care at seven years old, and at 17 she moved into a hostel whilst studying for her A-levels. So that she could focus on her studies, Kim was unable to work and receiving benefits which meant she had £50 every two weeks to live on and pay all of her bills. At 17 she was learning to manage money, taking on responsibilities many of her peers did not have to worry about and applying for university.

The hostel also did not have Wi-Fi so Kim would arrive at school early every day and would go to her local library until 9pm every night to get her work done and revise.

Reflecting on this time, she said: “Living in a hostel, I didn’t have the resources other students have. I basically lived at my local library. Having that kind of stress when you’re trying to revise is hard.”

She also lived with vulnerable people, including those who had just come out of prison and many with complicated mental health issues. She saw that many of these care leavers and vulnerable people were disadvantaged by the system and were struggling to find a way out.

Kim Emenike

When Kim got her place at Loughborough, she admitted she was not sure what to expect. She said: “I’m the first in my family to go to university. My focus was to get a degree, get a job and go. Once I came to Loughborough, I realised there are so many opportunities and so many things to get involved in.

“I realised that the degree was only part of the experience.”

The University was able to support Kim during her time as a student. She received a bursary which meant she did not have to work as many hours at her part-time job, giving her more time not only to study but also get involved in societies and have the full university experience. She was also supported by the Student Wellbeing and Inclusivity team.

When asked if she had any advice for other care leavers or people still in care who want to go to university, she said: “Do not let your past define you. There is nothing wrong with coming from a disadvantaged background. There are so many people rooting for you. Work hard and be proud of who you are.”

On her time at Loughborough, she added: “The Kim who came here in 2016 is not the same one leaving in 2020 – I am more confident, more employable and I have found my passion. It’s changed my life.”

Kim is looking forward to starting her graduate scheme in the Civil Service in October, and she is also writing a book about how the system for care leavers needs to change. She wants to build a network for care leavers so that they can support each other and help each other succeed.

Notes for editors

Press release reference number: 20/136

Loughborough is one of the country’s leading universities, with an international reputation for research that matters, excellence in teaching, strong links with industry, and unrivalled achievement in sport and its underpinning academic disciplines.

It has been awarded five stars in the independent QS Stars university rating scheme, named the best university in the world for sports-related subjects in the 2020 QS World University Rankings and University of the Year by The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2019. 

Loughborough is in the top 10 of every national league table, being ranked 4th in the Guardian University League Table 2020, 5th in the Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2020 and 6th in The UK Complete University Guide 2021.

Loughborough is consistently ranked in the top twenty of UK universities in the Times Higher Education’s ‘table of tables’ and is in the top 10 in England for research intensity. In recognition of its contribution to the sector, Loughborough has been awarded seven Queen's Anniversary Prizes.

The Loughborough University London campus is based on the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and offers postgraduate and executive-level education, as well as research and enterprise opportunities. It is home to influential thought leaders, pioneering researchers and creative innovators who provide students with the highest quality of teaching and the very latest in modern thinking.

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