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Push for estranged student policy reform begins

Almost half of Oxford students who have been estranged from their families are forced to “couchsurf” during the vacations, or would otherwise be homeless, according to a new SU report.

Authored by SU VP for Welfare and Equal Opportunities, Ellie Macdonald, the report gathers testimonies from 41 estranged students studying at the University.

The report also reveals that over a third of estranged students worked during term time, as well as in the vac, in order to make ends meet.

Macdonald said she wrote the report because it is “an issue close to my heart”. She said: “it’s a shame that although colleges do deal with it on an informal basis, there are no formal processes in place to help students who find themselves without family support whilst on course.

“Before this research took place, there was no information at all around estranged students at the University of Oxford and so I’m really hopeful that this report can help change things.”

Macdonald submitted her report for to the university-wide Domestic Bursars Committee yesterday, aiming to get the University and its colleges to adopt the Stand Alone Pledge, a statement committing educational institutions to supporting students without a family network.

Whilst the report is based on the experiences of 41 students, the SU estimate there are at least 200 Oxford students who have no family support.

Further statistics detailed in the report show that half of the estranged students involved in the report felt they could not approach their college for support, whilst 58% reported severe mental health problems as a result of burnout, stress, and isolation.

43% of the students interviewed had difficulty in securing college accommodation, and 45% felt that bursaries were not enough to survive on and had difficulty accessing other funds.

Macdonald told Cherwell: “If Oxford is interested in helping its graduates use their Oxford education as a foundation stone for their later success, then the University must recognize it has a duty of care towards estranged students especially in ensuring their university experience is at no significant disadvantage to their non-estranged peers.”

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