If your relationship with your parents or carers has broken down (also known as ‘estranged’), there are people you can turn to for help when you research your options, start your application, or think about your transition to university or college.

What are student support services?

Universities and colleges typically have a team which offers advice and support to all students who want it. These teams may have different names depending on the university or college but they are often referred to as ‘student support services’. Students from all backgrounds can find help with a range of issues such as:

  • finding accommodation
  • getting help with improving academic and study skills
  • discovering which bursaries and hardship funds are available
  • help with budgeting and managing finances
  • accessing mental health and wellbeing services
  • access to support for disabilities and learning differences
  • general welfare advice

You can find information about student services, including contact details, on the university or college website. Don’t hesitate to contact them directly if you have any questions – they are used to hearing from prospective students who would like more information.

Some student support teams have a central contact for students experiencing estrangement they will be able to support you right from your application through to graduation. You can find the estranged student contact details for many universities and colleges on the EaCES website. The students’ union (or other student body) on your campus may also be able to offer information and support.

If you let the university or college know that you are estranged from your parents or carers by ticking the box on the UCAS application, they may get in touch to tell you more about the support they can offer and to find out more about what you need. This might include finance (e.g. bursaries), help with accommodation, and other relevant services. Everything you discuss is confidential, and you won’t be asked to share any details you don’t want to.

Academic support

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 or estranged student contact (where relevant) to talk to your course tutor on your behalf.

Financial support and budgeting advice

Managing money while at university can be a challenge, especially if you don’t have family support, but there’s lots of support and guidance to help you with budgeting and sourcing additional income, to help with the day-to-day costs of being a student.

If you need practical advice about managing your finances, contact the student support team at your university or college first. They provide impartial advice and guidance about bursaries, scholarships, and emergency hardship funds – based on your specific needs. You may also be able to access support from the students’ union.

All applicants can apply for student finance, such as loans to cover tuition fees where applicable (paid directly to the university), and maintenance costs (paid directly into your bank account). If you are not supported by either parent, you can apply as an independent student, which will give you access to the maximum funding.

Do I need to provide evidence to get support?

You will not need evidence to speak to student support services or to access most of the support they offer.

In some cases, you may need to provide evidence to show you are eligible for certain bursaries and scholarships, but you will be given help to find what you need. Usually, this will be a letter from a professional (e.g. a teacher or doctor) confirming your circumstances.

If you are aged under 25 when your course begins, you will need to provide evidence of your estrangement when applying for student finance – read more about this on our student finance page

All of Us - a student-led community for estranged and care experienced students from the Unite Foundation

Join us in our cosy corner of the internet to make new connections, start conversations, share helpful information, arrange or find out about meet ups and more! Anyone who self-identifies as estranged or care experienced in higher education in the UK can sign up.

Visit All of Us

Mentoring and buddy networks

Some unis and colleges have mentoring schemes or buddy networks to help you settle in. Some mentors are specifically trained to help estranged students, 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 the university or college to see if they offer this.

Looking after your mental health and wellbeing

If your family circumstances are challenging, you may find it helpful to explore what mental health and wellbeing support is available at the university or college. These services are sometimes called different things, but the student support team or students’ union will be able to help you. The information may also be available on the website.

Read all about how to look after your mental health and wellbeing at university and during your application.

Buttle UK provides grants for estranged students who need financial help for access to emotional, physical, or mental health care. See our financial support information for more details.

Getting support for your individual circumstances

The UCAS application gives you the opportunity to let the university or college know about any other circumstances you might need help with, including if you: 

  • are disabled or have a learning difference, mental health condition or long-term health condition
  • have spent time in care
  • have caring or parenting responsibilities
  • are estranged from your parents due to a breakdown in your relationship
  • are from a UK Armed Forces family, or if you have served in the UK Armed Forces yourself
  • are a refugee, asylum seeker or have limited leave to remain

All questions are asked to make sure you get the right support – find more information on applying to HE on our individual needs pages.

More information and advice if you're going it alone

  • The EaCES Handbook is written by estranged and care experienced students (EaCES) to bring together information and advice to help others – including their own experiences and practical tips.
  • The Unite Foundation offers accommodation scholarships (at participating universities and colleges), as well as a community, podcast and information for students who are estranged or care experienced
  • Go Higher West Yorkshire has produced an e-resource aiming to be a ‘one-stop-shop' to make it easier for you to find out what support is available across its 13 West Yorkshire member providers in terms of getting into and succeeding in higher education, and progressing into employment or further study. 

Want to ask a current student a question?

If you have a question about an issue that isn't covered here, or a specific university or college, why not try asking a current undergraduate student about their experiences?

Speak to students like Maria on Unibuddy

Ask me about accessing student services, how I fit my studies around my work and family and anything else uni related you can think of!