Sunderland becomes first North East University to pledge support for estranged students

With its long-established track record for successfully supporting students from all walks of life through Higher Education, the University of Sunderland has become the fifteenth UK University to commit to the ‘Stand Alone Pledge’ and the first in the region.


Established by the national Stand Alone charity, the purpose of signing the pledge is to ensure universities commit to action and support to help students who are estranged from their families and studying without the support of approval of a family network, succeed in higher education.

On signing the Stand Alone pledge, University of Sunderland Vice-Chancellor, Shirley Atkinson, commented: “I am delighted to commit the University of Sunderland to the Stand Alone Pledge and fully support the work that Stand Alone undertakes in raising awareness and supporting the needs of young people who have found themselves removed from their family network.

“This is something very close to us here at the University of Sunderland. For the past 25 years we have been one of the highest performing institutions in the UK for attracting students from under-represented groups. And, we operate in an area where young people are least likely to access higher education.

“We already have a strong support package in place for vulnerable people, such as care leavers, and this support will be extended to those who are studying without the foundation of a family network, as we recognise the challenges these students face.”

Estranged students are young people studying without the support and approval of a family network. Young people in this position often have no contact at all with their family and have removed themselves from a dysfunctional situation.

Research suggests that emotional abuse can be a key cause of family estrangement, alongside clashes of values and beliefs and mismatched expectations about family roles.

The pledge recognises the additional emotional and financial challenges facing students who are estranged from their families, who are studying without the support or approval of a family network. The pledge helps universities to develop support and enable these brave young students to stay resilient and ensure they are not being held back from succeeding in Higher Education. The aim is to reverse a worrying trend that sees estranged students three times more likely to drop out of HE than the average student.

Now that the University of Sunderland has signed the pledge, they will work over the next two-years towards creating the right environment and conditions for estranged students to complete their course by improving support mechanisms in four key areas – finance; accommodation; mental health and wellbeing; and outreach and transition.

Any applicant or student who wants to talk in confidence to the University’s Care Team can call 0191 515 2216 or email

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