SFC recognises estranged students as a group ‘at risk’ of not achieving their full potential, from aspirations through to successful outcomes.
Who are estranged students?
An estranged student is someone who no longer has the support of their family due to a breakdown in their relationship which has led to ceased contact. This might mean biological or adoptive parents or wider family members who have been responsible for supporting a student in the past.
Estranged students have no experience of being in care and do not have a corporate parent responsible for them.
Why do estranged students require additional support?
The Independent Review of Financial Support for Students in Scotland published in 2017 identified estranged students as a disadvantaged group.
The recommendations were approved by the Scottish Government which highlighted that estranged students are distinct from independent students because they have been permanently estranged from their parents and do not have parental support.
Research from the University of Strathclyde - Estranged Students in Higher and Further Education - published in January 2019, found that estranged students often encounter the same issues as those with care-experience. Estranged students reported on their experiences of severe financial hardship, accommodation and the fear of homelessness, the impact on belonging and stigmatisation, mental health issues and disrupted study.
Local authorities have no statutory responsibility to look after their welfare as estranged students are most likely to remove themselves from damaging family relationships between the ages of 16-19.
[Stand Alone 2015].
SFC support to estranged students
SFC is a representative of the Estranged Students Stakeholder Group, chaired by Stand Alone, with representatives from the college and university sector and other stakeholders like NUS Scotland, SAAS and the Scottish Government.
Colleges and universities have been reporting on their activities to support estranged students through their outcome agreements since AY 2016-17. We encourage our institutions to take the Stand Alone pledge.
We would like institutions to provide estranged students with the same level of support as
care-experienced students as per their corporate parenting responsibilities. This would include a named point of contact for advice and support from the point of entry through to graduation, a dedicated web page for estranged students outlining the support available and how to access it, and including estranged students in widening participation and outreach work. We support Scottish HEIs to include estranged in their contextualised admissions policy.