Scottish Government commissioned research has been released about the struggles faced by estranged young people in Scottish higher education.
For many who are new to the conversation around estranged student support, the findings of this report will likely be shocking.
Estranged students are those who are studying without the support of family capital, they have no parents to provide material, financial or emotional support and no corporate parent as their struggles were not seen by the state.
Research shows many of these young people are often rejected for being LGBT+, in transition, surviving forced marriage or are escaping abuse in the family home.
We know that it is difficult to be a student – but no other cohort experiences such insecurity quite like we see it among the estranged student cohort. Despite the severity of these challenges, these findings do not a surprise those of us who have been close to the issue.
Between academic literature, sector reports, public data and the testimony of estranged students, we are acutely aware of the multitude of barriers estranged students face in our colleges and universities.
Housing a problem
The report goes far into challenging the sector to examine where it might be allowing students to fall through the cracks. Student accommodation is at the heart of the research, and it is clear that students are finding university lodging inaccessibly expensive.
It calls for this to be examined at institutional level, and I would go further and say that now would be a fruitful time to explore whether the sector can be trusted to set its own accommodation rates.
Is more regulation from government required to ensure that profits are not costing these disadvantaged young people their education? Scottish Government has already launched a review into purpose built student accommodation (which intersected with this research) and many eyes will be watching the forthcoming findings.
Stand Alone has been working hard to raise awareness of these barriers faced by estranged students, producing research that puts this beyond doubt, and fighting for change.
During the 2021 Scottish election, we made sure political parties in Scotland took this issue seriously by demanding they take up our two manifesto asks – support for guarantor schemes in all of Scotland’s colleges and universities, and the creation of a bursary for estranged students.
Thankfully, the two parties now in government were among those who wrote this on paper and became elected on this mandate.
Estranged students need, and will now expect, an equitable response based on the reality of family estrangement affirmed in this report. The Scottish Government must rise to meet the level of need and produce solutions which ensure future estranged students need not endure the hardship of those who came before them.