Estranged Students Solidarity Week

Estranged Students Solidarity Week, now in it’s second year, is organised by the charity StandAlone with the support of the National Union of Students. The campaign seeks to raise awareness of the issues affecting estranged students studying in higher education, celebrate their achievements and highlight the good practice occurring across the sector to support this group of students.

Who are estranged students?

“Estranged students are young people studying without the support or approval of a family” (NUS, 2018). Estrangement happens when a person loses contact with key family members - this often means no contact at all. There are many causes of estrangement and nobody’s situation is the same.

While research shows that a large proportion of students become estranged prior to their 18th birthday, our experience at LJMU also shows that similarly a significant group of students become estranged while they are studying or in the six - nine months prior to joining us.

 Recent information from the Student Loans Company states that there are over 9,000 etsranged students studying in higher education who have been assessed by the SLC as “irreconcilably estranged” and awarded Independent Student Status as a result.

What are the issues facing estranged students?

Every student is different but, our experience supporting estranged students here at LJMU tells us that key barriers include: financial issues including evidencing circumstances with the Student Loans Company; finding stable, secure accommodation all year-round and difficulties providing guarantors and deposits; and, the emotional impacts that estrangement may have on students’ mental and physical wellbeing. Our support package helps our students to overcome these difficulties

Research by StandAlone finds that 28% of students surveyed do not feel comfortable accessing support from their university - something we are working hard to change

What support is available at LJMU for estranged students?

LJMU has a long history of working with estranged students. Our John Lennon Imagine Award scheme, set up in 2009 with the support of Yoko Ono’s Spirit Foundation, provides a bespoke package of support to estranged students studying at LJMU.

This includes a dedicated member of staff within Student Advice and Wellbeing, who works with students to provide 1-1 advice, guidance and support throughout their studies. In addition, we offer estranged students an annual bursary of £1,000 and access to appropriate 365-day accommodation in LJMU-partner accommodation.

We recognise that estranged students may face some shared challenges but that everyone is unique and will work with our students to review their support throughout their studies and, importantly, assist students in preparing for living independently after they graduate. Students can attend a drop-in session or book an appointment with the Specialist Advisor to discuss their circumstances in confidence.

Since 2013, we have partnered with the Unite Foundation to provide additional support to estranged students through accommodation scholarships - ensuring that estranged students have a secure place to live during their undergraduate studies.

In 2016, the University was one of the first in the country to take the StandAlone Pledge, reaffirming our commitment to estranged students in all aspects of the student journey. We were recognised in 2018 with a StandAlone Excellence and Innovation Award for our ongoing work in this area.

What can I do to assist estranged students?

Everybody at LJMU has a part to play in supporting estranged students. Simply by reading to the end of this article, you are helping!

Understanding some of the basics about how estrangement can impact a student, being open to discussing with students who might be estranged and providing signposting to the University support services are great ways that we can all help to support students studying at LJMU who are estranged from their family.

If you have any queries regarding support for estranged students, contact Phil Bakstad in Student Advice and Wellbeing Services by calling extension 3149 or emailing

More information can be found in our student support section.

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