Topic briefing

Estranged students

Published 27 July 2020

Effective practice advice

1. Identify estranged students

We encourage providers to continue to improve the collection, accuracy and evaluation of estranged student data, both for pre-entry students and current students.

Data on numbers of estranged students for some universities and colleges is available on the Stand Alone Pledge website.

2. Provide a named contact for estranged students

A number of universities and colleges provide a dedicated named contact for estranged students who can support them throughout the student lifecycle, from the application process to graduation.

3. Provide support at all stages of the student lifecycle

Providers may wish to consider how to support estranged students on open days, welcome week, during years studying abroad, graduation, and transition to employment or postgraduate study.

Unite’s Insight Report found that students estranged from their parents or who have been in local authority care reported higher than average levels of satisfaction with their experience of freshers’ week. This can perhaps be attributed to students feeling independent both socially and financially and having the opportunity for a ‘fresh start’.

Providers should also consider how they can support estranged students as they transition out of higher education. At graduation and in the transition into employment or further study, students estranged from their families often experience an upheaval from the relative safety of higher education.

4. Provide financial support and information

Funding and finances can be a particular stress and barrier for estranged students. They are unable to receive financial support from their family or a corporate parent and can find the process of applying for student finance particularly challenging.

Providers may wish to consider how they can support students applying for student finance to ensure they receive the support they are entitled to and help to prevent delays in receiving support. This may include ensuring staff are trained to understand the needs of estranged students as well as providing online information, advice and guidance.

Providers may also wish to consider whether they are able to provide additional financial support through hardship funds and bursaries. Some providers offer bursaries to address specific times of the year when estranged students might experience more acute financial hardship such as summer vacation and graduation.

5. Provide support through accommodation

Accommodation is a particularly important issue for estranged students, as unlike care leavers they do not receive housing support from local authorities.

Stand Alone note in its report published with the Unite Foundation that many of the estranged students they work with register themselves as homeless over the summer in order to become eligible for support.

Universities and colleges may wish to consider taking a structured approach to this issue, for example through including summer housing at a discounted rate, guarantor assistance, or providing bursaries to help with deposit payments.

6. Support the wellbeing of estranged students

Providers may also wish to consider how they can support estranged students’ mental health and wellbeing.

According to Stand Alone, estranged students tend to rely on their own resilience to get through difficult times and may find it difficult to ask for help. This can lead to isolation, which over 70 per cent of estranged students report experiencing at least once during their time at university or college.

One way universities and colleges can deal with this is to assist students in setting up support groups. These are safe spaces for students to disclose and discuss personal issues.

7. Take the ‘Stand Alone Pledge’

Providers can sign the Stand Alone Pledge. This is a written commitment from a senior staff member to develop support for estranged students in four areas:

  • finance
  • accommodation
  • access and transition
  • mental health and wellbeing.
Published 27 July 2020

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