What are student services?
Universities and colleges have a department, often called ‘student services’, which offers advice and support to all students who want it. They support students from all backgrounds, and can help estranged students with issues such as:
- getting evidence for student finance
- finding accommodation
- discovering which bursaries and hardship funds are available
- getting counselling and accessing other emotional support networks
You can find information about student services (they may have a different name) on a university’s website. Don’t hesitate to contact them directly if you have any questions – their contact details should be on their website. Stand Alone publishes contacts for estranged students at many universities and colleges. The students’ union (or other student body) on your campus can also offer information and support.
Some universities contact estranged students before the start of term to offer support with finance, accommodation, bursaries, and other relevant support services, but only if they know about your situation. It is therefore advisable to tell them about your circumstances before your course starts. Everything you discuss is confidential, and you won’t be asked to share any details you don’t want to.
Some student support services have specialists dedicated to helping estranged students. They may even assign you a named person who you can turn to for advice and guidance throughout your studies.
If you think your personal circumstances might affect your academic achievement, it’s a good idea to talk to your course tutor about your situation. They can help you manage your workload and, if necessary, explain the rules about extenuating circumstances for assignments. If you prefer, you could ask a student services adviser to talk to your course tutor on your behalf.
Mentoring and buddy networks
Some universities operate mentoring schemes to help new students make a successful transition to university and settle in. Some mentors are specially trained to support estranged students and care leavers, and will make sure you can access the services and information you may need. Often, mentoring or ‘buddying’ takes place online, and this is sometimes available before the start of your course to support your transition to higher education. Check with your chosen university or college to see if they offer this.
Stand Alone – a charity that works to support estranged people – offers support groups and therapeutic workshops for people in a similar situation. Their website provides information about upcoming events.
The Stand Alone Pledge
Many universities and colleges have pledged their commitment to supporting students who do not have the support or approval of a family network through the Stand Alone Pledge. Their website gives details of the 'champion institutions' who have taken the Pledge, along with details of the support they have committed to, and you can also listen to estranged students talk about their own experiences of higher education. Not all universities and colleges who offer support for estranged students have signed the Pledge, so if you don't see your choice on the website, it doesn't mean they can't help you. Check the university's website, or contact their student services office to see what's available.