Leeds Beckett has become the first university in West Yorkshire to sign the Stand Alone Pledge, a commitment by higher education institutions to recognise and strengthen their current and future support for students who are estranged from their families. Figures from Student Loans Company suggest Leeds Beckett has 174 students who are estranged from their family.
Estranged students are young people studying without the support and approval of a family network. Individuals in this position often have no contact at all with their family and cannot access the safety net that families traditionally provide. Stand Alone’s research shows that honour abuse, LGBTQI+ rejection, and changes from divorce and remarriage are key reasons why young people become estranged or are rejected by their family. Such students traditionally struggle to complete their studies and are vulnerable to homelessness and severe financial pressure whilst studying.
In the autumn of 2016, the charity Stand Alone launched The Stand Alone Pledge which covers four key areas of support that are particularly pertinent to estranged students to help keep them on track with their studies: financial needs, access to accommodation out of term time, support for mental health and wellbeing, and focussed outreach activities with Schools and Colleges.
Professor Peter Slee, Vice Chancellor at Leeds Beckett, said: “Our core purpose as a university is to enable people to raise their aspirations and develop their abilities so they can realise their full potential. In signing the Stand Alone Pledge we are recognising the terrible difficulties estranged students must overcome to realise their true potential, and make a firm commitment to support them fully on their journey.”
Where pupils are estranged from their families, Leeds Beckett will help them make informed choices about their future, their choice of course, and their university application. They will also provide a current student as a mentor to help them prepare for successful transition to university.
From September 2017, Leeds Beckett pledges to offer estranged students dedicated bursaries and continuing priority access to hardship funds for every year of their course. The University will also raise awareness among estranged students of opportunities for part-time work and placements and continue its dedicated support for graduate employment planning which is available for up to five years after graduation. A named member of staff in our Services for Students will continue to provide tailored information, advice and guidance for estranged students.
Leeds Beckett will ensure estranged students have guaranteed access to university accommodation for 365 days a year and will continue to signpost estranged students to the support available through its Wellbeing Service, its Disability Advice Service and to the range of social and cultural events which take place outside regular term time.
As part of the pledge, Leeds Beckett has also committed to:
- Make a clear external commitment to these students as part of its access strategy and its wider corporate social responsibility agenda; the external commitment brings together the University’s existing support mechanisms under one submission to demonstrate how it is already providing much needed targeted support.
- Add the University’s commitment to supporting estranged students to relevant future marketing and recruitment activities including targeted activity in outreach projects referenced within future Access Agreements.
- Access research, support services and networking opportunities provided by Stand Alone which staff in pastoral support roles may find useful to increase the University’s understanding of the support needs of this group of students.
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