LSE has not yet signed a Pledge that calls institutions to commit to developing support for estranged students in Higher Education across the UK, despite widespread support from other universities.
According to Stand Alone’s data, there are 11 estranged students studying at LSE. An estranged student is one that does not have a familial network to rely on during the course of their study. They will often have no contact with their family. The Stand Alone Pledge was created by the charity Stand Alone, which supports estranged people. The pledge is specific to students in Higher Education.
The pledge has been signed by 57 other institutions of Higher Education, including Oxford, Sheffield, Cardiff, Durham, King’s College London, Cambridge, and University College London. Despite having the same number of estranged students as Cambridge, a larger university, LSE has not yet signed.
Estranged students are three times more likely to drop out of Higher Education than the average student, according to research conducted by Stand Alone. This research also revealed that 41% of estranged students have considered withdrawing or suspending their courses due to the pressures of university life, including financial concerns and difficulty with mental health. 28% of estranged students do not feel comfortable accessing resources through their Higher Education institution.
In a statement for The Beaver, Stand Alone emphasised the specific struggles of estranged students: “Estranged Higher Education students officially recognised by SLC [Student Loans Company] do not receive support from a local authority as care leavers do. They struggle financially, they often experience periods of homelessness, lack emotional support, and their mental wellbeing may suffer as a result of dealing with being on their own.”
The Stand Alone Pledge aims to combat this struggle by helping institutions to support students who do not have access to the material and/or emotional support of their families. Stand Alone told us that “taking the Pledge demonstrates that the university understands that estranged students are disadvantaged. By putting in place the right kind of support for this group of students alongside other vulnerable groups – whether the university has only a few officially recognised estranged students or over 100, they are helping every student, no matter what their circumstances, to succeed in their studies.”
The Pledge is a public sign of commitment to supporting estranged students during the course of their study. In order to sign it, LSE must identify what they are already doing for estranged students and areas that they can develop. Stand Alone then works with the university in order to improve resources in four key areas: mental health, accommodation, finance and outreach.
Faye Brookes Lewis, Community and Welfare Officer, encouraged LSE to consider signing it. In a statement, she said “I think it’s important that LSE, and the higher education sector as a whole, work to support estranged students.”
“Being an estranged student can be a uniquely difficult and isolating experience and we should support these students both in terms of additional money and resources as well as raising more awareness about this issue. The Stand Alone Pledge has prompted some universities to make important commitments to improving support for estranged students. I would like to see similar commitments from LSE.”
She also emphasised where students can go for help, pointing to The LSESU Advice Service, which is able to support estranged students through applications to SU hardship funds. “These hardship funds,” she said, “provide financial help for a variety of different situations. To access the fund, students don’t necessarily need to meet the ‘official’ HE definition of estrangement (i.e. no communication with either of your parents for 12 months). The Advice Service is also able to refer students to a variety of other services based on their own individual circumstances.”
Speaking to The Beaver, an LSE spokesperson stated: “We recognise studying at university can be a daunting experience without the support of a family network and are presently reviewing our policies in this area.”
They went on to highlight the resources currently available for estranged students:
“We currently provide a range of services to help estranged students. These include a free, confidential counselling service with trained professionals and a peer support scheme – where students trained in listening, questioning and responding can provide support and assistance to other students. Departmental tutors and pastoral wardens in halls of residence can also provide individual support.
To help with the financial strain, estranged students are advised through the offer process to apply for student funding, through which they are automatically considered for an LSE bursary to help with living costs. Students in first year are also put forward for the Accommodation bursary.”
Other sources of financial support are also available, the spokesperson told us that “estranged students can also apply for an LSE discretionary bursary for students who face exceptional financial need, and that application will enable the Financial Support Office (FSO) to consider them for an Access to Education scholarship. Once at LSE, if this funding is not yet in place they will be eligible for access funding to support with immediate living costs. The FSO are accessible by phone and at a daily drop-in in the Student Services Centre.”
If you need to seek help or support, please contact the services mentioned in this article. Other sources of support include Galop, which provides support for LGBT+ people who have been the victim of domestic abuse, and Karma Nirvana, which supports victims of honour-based violence and forced marriage.