What is the Children's University?

The Children's University is an international charity that provides all 7 to 14 year olds (and 5 to 6 year olds with their families) with access to exciting and innovative CU Learning Activities  and experiences outside the normal school day. 

Our work is developed and delivered through local CU Centres, situated across the United Kingdom and more recently overseas.

What is a local CU Centre?

There are just under 100 local CU Centres in the United Kingdom.  You will find details of your local CU Centre and their contact details here.

Is there a cost involved?

Yes, we believe that everyone who benefits should contribute and will become members of the Children's University, whether as a (inter)national member of CU Trust, a Child Member, Membership as a School/Academy, a Higher Education partner or a Learning Destination.

What is the cost of Child Membership?

The cost of CU Membership for each child is £5 for which each child receives:

  • A CU Passport to Learning
  • Access to CU Learning Activities provided by CU quality assured Learning Destinations.
  • Participation in a Children's University Graduation ceremony where they will receive a Children's University certificate, dressed traditionally in a graduation cap & gown, with an invitation to parents/carers to attend. 

Membership is renewed each time a new Passport to Learning is required (on average we find this is once every 18 months).

We recognise that for children from the lowest income families this amount could be prohibitive. In these circumstances, please speak to the school your child attends.

What is a CU Learning Destination and what kind of activities are CU Learning Activities?

CU Learning Destinations are places and organisations that provide high quality CU Learning Activities.  CU Learning Activities are activities that have been quality approved by the Children's University.  We validate any activity that will enable children or young people to develop skills or knowledge, as long as it relates to a subject that can be studied further in Higher Education.

A local CU Centre may offer art, astronomy or drama, music or maths, science or sport, philosophy, poetry or photography, or any combination of these and other subjects according to the expertise available locally.

Children's University learning provision can be in any subject which can be studied as part of a degree programme at a UK university, as exemplified on www.ucas.ac.uk/students/coursesearch/ .

Is participation recognised and rewarded?

Yes.  We celebrate achievement and reward participation through the award of Children's University certificates.  Raising children's aspirations is important to us and we aim to develop the understanding that learning can be the 'satellite system to better places in life.'

What the benefits to my child?

Through participation in fun, high quality learning experiences, we aim to grow inquisitive, confident, independent children and learners.  It's about enjoyment and a sense of achievement for all.  Membership to the Children's University provides each child with access to a great range of quality assurance learning provision.

Why are there two passports - a 'real' one and a 'virtual' one?

The 'real', hard copy Passport To Learning remains the essential element in a child's journey to independent learning and is highly valued by children, as the 2010-11 independent evaluation found. The 'virtual' E-Passport enhances but does not replace the hard copy passport. Although it is very important that the E-Passport is child-friendly, one of its most important features is its use as an administrative and management tool at school and local CU level.

Can I have one and not the other?

As the 'virtual' passport is an enhancement of and not a replacement for the 'real' one, children can have the hard copy Passport To Learning without the local Children's University or schools engaging with the E-Passport. Local CUs or schools cannot have the E-Passport without already having hard copies of the Passport To Learning in use.

How do I set up a new Children's University centre?

In the first instance you should contact the Children's University head office for a discussion and advice. In the meantime, you can find out more about the Children's University through the various sections on this website. You can also discover more about existing CU centres, where they are and what they do: existing centres will be more than happy to have an informal chat with you.  

How do I become a member?

You will become a member of the Children's University once the CU Membership Agreement form has been signed and your membership payment has been received.

How much does membership cost and what do I get in return?

It is a condition of CU Membership in England that each local CU centre operates within the geographical boundaries of the Local Education Authority. A Local Education Authority is a clearly identified area, recognised educationally and legally; it also clearly exists within the 'psyche' of the participating children, families, schools and communities. The Local Education Authority has a statutory duty placed upon it as Corporate Parent to promote the educational achievement of the children they look after, potentially the most vulnerable CU participants.

There may be very good reasons, such as economies of scale, why one organisation can manage more than one local CU in England (Higher or Further Education Institution, a charity, another local CU, and others) across two or more Local Education Authority areas. The CU Membership arrangement remains as one per Local Authority area.

Where there is more than one local CU presence, as campuses for example, within a Local Education Authority area, local delivery protocols must be established to ensure that there is fair access to all children and no school/child is disadvantaged due to disparate local membership arrangements.

For every local CU centre an annual CU Membership is payable to the CU (Children's University) Trust. The Membership year runs from 1st April to 31stMarch.

In return, each CU will receive start-up support, access to the members' area of the CU website, Validation Training, E-Passport  Training, fundraising advice, possible access to additional funding, plus access to a range of (inter)national learning partnerships and ongoing mentoring.

The level of fee charged is directly correlated to the number of schools participating in the programme over the year (see table below).


Category Example/Description
(£ per annum)
Small Small organisation such as a schools/academies collaborative of between 1 and 10 schools. 1,350
Medium Medium sized lead-organisation such as a small unitary Local Authority, a Further Education Institution, working with a number of between 11 and 50 schools. 2,250
Large Large organisation such as a Local Authority or a Higher Education Institution, working with a number of between 51 and 200 schools. 3,000
X Large Very large organisation, such as a Local Authority or other very large organisation working with a number of between 200 and 350 schools. 4,000
XX Large Very large organisation, such as a Local Authority or county working with more than 350 schools. 5,000


The Membership year runs from 1st April to 31st March and invoices are issued at the end of February. 

For new local CU Centres established during the Membership year, the Membership fee will be payable as follows:

Period Fee
1st April to 31st August Full Membership Fee
1st September to 31st March 50% of Membership Fee


Annual CU Membership gives local CUs:   

  • Possible access to project funding for start-up, expansion and emergencies
  • CU Certification
  • Validation of learning (Planning for Learning)
  • QiSS quality assurance (Planning for Excellence)
  • Website www.childrensuniversity.co.uk/CUname
  • Annual CU Conference
  • National and regional CU Managers' meetings
  • Training by CU Trust and partners   
  • Research and evaluation through Leadership for Learning
  • Partnerships and networks at a (inter)national and local level
  • A partner in a (inter)national voice for out-of-hours learning

What about quality assurance?

The Children's University (CU) Trust insists that, as a condition of Membership, all local Children's Universities must quality assure their management structures and planning processes, through the QiSS framework - an organisational quality assurance as part of the CU Trust's due-diligence process.

There is an expectation that within 12 months of starting, all Children's Universities will be recognised by QiSS at Emerged level and that each Children's University must maintain a minimum of Emerged level as a condition of continuing CU Membership.  

CU Trust requires each local CU centre to maintain a minimum of Emerged status as a condition of continuing Membership.

  • The one-off cost to the local CU will be £300.
  • CU Trust provide match funding of £300.
  • The QiSS registration fee is in addition to the annual Membership fee. The QiSS registration fee is not chargeable under the same conditions as the Membership Fee and is payable in full.
  • CU Trust will offer support in this process and identify a Critical Friend from within the CU Trust network, a fellow CU professional who can support in three broad ways: managing the Recognition process; advising on evidence requirements, process and procedure, helping to present and evidence practice.

For more information about QiSS registration and process please contact Lynne Upton, Director of Learning, on 0161 907 5214 or email Lynne

For more information on CU Membership please contact us here.


What funding is available? How do I apply for it?

Funding may be available from the Children's University. Funding is available to help start up a new local CU centre, or to help expand an existing CU centre. The funding period is 12 months and sustainability post the funding period is a key criteria. The first point of contact must always be the Children's University head office for an initial discussion.