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The Stand Alone Pledge: understanding the challenges for estranged students

Susan Mueller

Project Director, HE
Stand Alone

Most students are welcomed home by their families in the holidays, but this isn’t the case for everyone. Estranged students are those studying without the support, approval and encouragement that most students gain from their family networks.

These students are more likely to feel they are alone at university, facing considerable barriers to success while they try to complete their studies. As Professor Geoff Layer, Vice-Chancellor, University of Wolverhampton recognised in his recent blog, 41% of estranged students have considered dropping out or suspending their course.

The Stand Alone Pledge, launched on 19 October 2016 at Universities UK, helps institutions to support estranged students by providing a public commitment to improving policies and increasing support for students studying without a family network.

Stand Alone’s recent training conference highlighted how more institutions can improve their existing support frameworks, also tackling difficult questions:

'How do you fund bursaries for estranges students? Which budget does the summer accommodation bursary come from? Can we add a tick box to help identify estranged students to our enrolment form? How can we link up better with our wellbeing team?'

Manchester Metropolitan University spoke about its new and highly successful bursary scheme for estranged students. This was introduced in 2016 and has already supported over 90 students over the summer.

Feedback from estranged students themselves shows how far this scheme had been able to reduce their stress and anxiety over the summer months. One student commented:

'Over summer, money is such a worry for me, and to be provided a bursary is such a relief. One of my main worries was finding the money for my accommodation deposit, but with this bursary I can finally rest and stop worrying.'

The Unite Foundation also stressed the importance of providing safe, year-round accommodation for estranged students. It’s this support that enables students to really focus on their studies.

Another challenge for higher education institutions is how to reach estranged students before they have applied to university. Kingston University and CentrePoint, a homeless charity, have teamed up to help estranged young people living in hostels and apply to university successfully. 33% of all estranged students experience homelessness before they reach university, and a joined up approach is key to ensuring students have the appropriate support.

It has been one month since our launch, and the list of champion institutions who are taking The Stand Alone Pledge is growing every day. Universities have already taken great steps to support estranged students, but there is much more we can do to help.

For more information please visit the Stand Alone Student Support Portal.

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