With more than 8,000 university students estranged from their families, universities are being asked to provide year-round accommodation to support students.
The figures were revealed by a Freedom of Information request to the Student Loans Company, whereby 7,566 students in England, 341 in Wales and 121 in Northern Ireland were deemed as estranged this academic year. In Scotland, the Student Awards Agency classified 145 estranged students.
Students find themselves in estranged due to various reasons, with abusive families, clashes of values and a lack of acceptance over sexuality being amongst the most common. The lack of family support poses a heightened risk of learning disruptions, with students being up to three times more likely to drop out.
According to Stand Alone, a charity dedicated to supporting estranged adults, 30% of affected students have also experienced homelessness. The consequences of sleeping rough, such as low self-esteem and depression, will undoubtedly have devastating effects on a student’s well-being.
Housing is a Priority
Stand Alone’s founder, Becca Bland, suggests universities introduce a ‘specific bursary for estranged students’ – similar to the grants given to students who have been in care. The additional financial support would provide a ‘safety net’ for estranged students to fall back on and sets their best foot forward for finding accommodation.
Labour MP Ian Mearns highlights that the government has a part to play in ensuring universities take this issue seriously. As a result, the Office for Students can begin to hold institutions accountable for breaching their code of conduct to protect students, including financial penalties.
The issue is also being taken seriously in university application processes. UCAS now allows students to self-declare their estrangement, which would alert universities of their circumstances and allows efficient preparation for reliable accommodation to be arranged.