Attending university without family support: the experiences of 'estranged students'

Students are often thought of as independent, sometimes living by themselves and engaging in paid work. Yet, the student loan system is based on an assessment of parents’ income, and student accommodation is available September through to June – with the assumption that students will go ‘home’ during the summer. For those who opt to rent from the private sector, a guarantor is required alongside a hefty deposit, all of which require students to call upon and rely on their family.

This means that ‘estranged students’ not in contact with their families are not able to access help, potentially leading to hardship and exclusion. Images of homelessness and poverty are not commonly associated with the student experience, yet ‘estranged students’ often experience it first-hand.Recently, the charity Stand Alone started researching ‘estranged students’ and advocating for better support on their behalf.

Through signing the Stand Alone Pledge, universities and colleges can commit to do more for these students, yet there is still limited awareness of their experiences and challenges - especially in the compulsory education system where a significant proportion of the guidance and information on accessing University takes place. Discussing and understanding these issues is absolutely vital if we are going to provide fair access to Higher Education for all groups in society.

This event, designed and organised in collaboration with ‘estranged students’, the Stand Alone organisation and Widening Access teams, will introduce key research findings in order to enable participants to better understand the experiences of ‘estranged students’. A student panel, board game and visual materials will also be used to stimulate debate and engage the audience