At Essex, we don’t want any of our students to feel alone and that’s why we’ve joined the Stand Alone initiative. Monica Illsley, our Chief of Staff, and Tancrede Chartier, the President of our Students’ Union explain how we support students who do not have families they can turn to for support and advice and how we can do more by working together.

StandAlone Pledge logo 

How does it feel to stand alone as a student…to not be able to count on the support and approval of your family? This is the reality for students who, for one reason or another, have no contact with, and are ‘estranged’ from, their families. Yet, just like their peers, they want to succeed in life. They want to be able to pursue higher study, to experience student life to the full and, ultimately, to successfully complete a degree that will open up life opportunities for them.

At Essex, the University and Students’ Union work together to try to make all students feel welcome and to help all to achieve their full potential. That’s why we’ve signed the Stand Alone pledge – a nationwide initiative that aims to break down the barriers that can stand in the way of students who don’t have family support. We are the first university to have made a joint pledge with our students’ union.

In our Stand Alone pledge, we set out our commitment to supporting estranged students. But signing a pledge is the easy bit. Now we need to make sure that we are directing our students to resources that can help them and that we are providing the dedicated support they need.

We have started by publishing information for estranged students in one place including individualized advice, guidance and relevant specialist services that we hope will help these students to succeed in their studies. This includes, for example, named advisors to provide a first point of contact for support for each student who is without a family network, giving priority to their applications to our hardship fund to ease their financial concerns, and providing longer accommodation contracts if they need to bridge the gap between academic years.

But we are committed to doing more and want to encourage students without family support to make themselves heard and to seek support – both to improve their own chances of success but also to help us better understand their needs so that we can support others.

We’re training our staff to raise awareness, reviewing our bursary support and working on strengthening how we refer students to specialist support organisations but we need your help.

If you are a student who has no contact with your parents, please get in touch. We really want to ensure you are getting the support you need and to hear your views and gather ideas that will help inform our new Stand Alone action plan.