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Support for estranged students

Starting university is an exciting time for all students, but we understand that it can be daunting if you don’t have the support of your family. If you are an estranged student who does not have any contact with your parents/carers, our We Care team are here to support you every step of the way.

If you are an estranged student, then our We Care Team can help

Every one of our students is different and unique. That’s why we’ll work with you to create a personalised support package. We aim to support you in making informed choices, settle in quickly at university, enjoy your student experience, and achieve your potential.

We can also support you if you are just thinking of applying to university by assisting you with all aspects of the application process from course choices, feedback on a personal statement to interview tips and hints. We can accompany you to university Open Days, arrange an individual tour, or simply meet up for a chat.

Wendy Price, Head of Widening Access and Participation, is our dedicated contact for estranged students and is assisted by Safeenah and Jess. The We Care Team can offer individual, bespoke support whenever you need it. Any contact is kept confidential and your choices are respected at all times.

We can provide personalised support based on your individual needs. This could include the following:

  • Accompany you to university events such as Open Days, individual tours, Applicant Days, interviews, and graduation.
  • Help you move in and show you around campus when you start university
  • Act as a central point of contact for you throughout your studies supporting you with any issues or concerns you might have. You can meet with us one-to-one for a coffee and a chat or contact us via phone, email, or Microsoft Teams. We can offer support every day that the University is open.
  • Meet with you at the start of each academic year whether you’re new to the University or new to our support

    We offer support with the following:

  • Accommodation 52 weeks a year
  • Student finance and funding
  • Employment and part-time work
  • Academic queries such as taking time out of your course
  • Mental health and wellbeing
  • Accessing the ‘We Care’ bursary of £2,500 for each year of study

If you have any questions about studying at the University of Sunderland, or the support available, please contact the We Care Team on 0191 515 2216 or email estranged.contact@sunderland.ac.uk.

       We Care Inclusive Awards 2022 winner logo

96.4% of students who received support from the We Care Team* rate our support as good or very good.

*Data from 54 respondents to University of Sunderland We Care Survey 2023.

Our award winning team

Dedicated support for you

If you are a UK ‘home’ student and irreconcilably estranged from both parents/carers, our We Care team can offer you individual, bespoke support whenever you need it. Any contact is kept confidential and your choices are respected at all times.

The term ‘estranged student’ is used to refer to students who are studying without the support of a family network. We have a support package in place to assist you if you are:

  • Studying a full-time, undergraduate or taught postgraduate course
  • Aged under 25 on the first day of the academic year (1 September)
  • A UK ‘home’ student
  • Irreconcilably estranged from both parents/carers

By 'irreconcilably estranged' we mean that either:

  • You have had no contact at all with your parents/carers for at least 12 months and this is unlikely to change
  • You can demonstrate on other grounds that you are estranged from your parents/carers, for example in exceptional circumstances
  • You are assessed as independent by Student Finance England (SFE) because you are estranged from both parents/carers

For estrangement cases that cannot be confirmed by SFE, proof of evidence of ‘genuine estrangement’ would need to be supplied to the University. All applications of estrangement are assessed on an individual basis.

Please note, you will not be considered estranged simply on the basis that you live separately from your parents, have recently fallen out with your parents, or your parents are unwilling to complete income assessment forms or contribute towards your student finance.

If you are unsure whether you are an estranged student, or what you may be eligible for, please contact the We Care Team on 0191 515 2216 or email estranged.contact@sunderland.ac.uk.

Students working at computers

Your studies and exams

Studying at university can be challenging but rewarding, so we know that you may experience feeling overwhelmed from time to time during your studies. We can help you throughout any particularly stressful or difficult times by:

  • Meeting up for a coffee. Sometimes you just need to take a break and have a chat with a friendly face who will listen.
  • Speaking to your tutor or Programme Leader on your behalf if you want us to
  • Signpost you to relevant support services who can offer support

Graduation and beyond

Our support doesn’t end when you graduate. We’re here to help with your next steps including everything from interview preparation to finding accommodation if you need it. Just get in touch and we’ll be there to help you every step of the way.


We can offer you support in the run up to and on the day of your graduation ceremony. Just let us know how we can help. We will cover the cost of your graduation gown and photo package, and even attend your academic awards ceremony to see you graduate, if you would like us to. We’ll also contact you a few weeks before your graduation to check whether you need any support from us.

Dedicated Careers and Employability Support

The Employability and Enterprise Hub is here to support you with careers and employability advice. Whether you are looking for graduate opportunities or a part-time job over the summer, get in touch and we can refer you for one-to-one support from the team.

Financial support

We understand that some students may encounter money worries at some point during their studies, but you’re not alone.

You may be entitled to:

We Care Bursary

If you are care experienced and either a full-time undergraduate student or a student studying a full-time taught postgraduate course, then you could be eligible for the We Care bursary of £2,500 based on progression to the next level of your course. This will be paid in four instalments of £625 throughout the year, for each year you progress through your course with us. Your status is kept confidential and you apply directly through the We Care Team for this bursary. You can apply at any point in the year, so contact us to find out more.

For further information, please contact the We Care Team on 0191 515 2216 or email care.contact@sunderland.ac.uk.

University of Sunderland scholarships and bursaries

We have a range of scholarships and bursaries available, so get in touch if you need any help or advice in understanding what you may be entitled to. Find out more about what scholarships and bursaries we offer.

For further information or advice, please contact our Scholarships and Bursaries Team on 0191 515 2865 or by email at scholarships@sunderland.ac.uk.

Student Support Fund

This is the University’s hardship fund to help students who face unexpected costs, higher than expected costs, or serious financial problems for other reasons. The fund is open to UK, EU, and international students, and applications can be made once you have enrolled. You will need to provide supporting evidence for your application to be considered for an award. Priority groups of students for assistance from the fund include students with children, students who are unable to work, and final-year students experiencing financial difficulties. Find more information on the fund (and the application form).

For further information and guidance on your finances, please contact our Student Financial Guidance Team on 0191 515 2284 or email studentfinancialguidance@sunderland.ac.uk.

  • Estranged and Care Experienced Students (EaCES) provide a space that signposts to support and guidance that is accessible to our community in all areas of their lives, with a particular focus on supporting access to further and higher education. They are a peer support platform for students who are estranged, care-experienced, care leavers, orphaned, and at risk of/wishing to become estranged. 

    Find out more about EaCES or visit their X (Twitter) page.

    Estranged and Care Experienced Students (EaCES)
  • Estranged Students' Network (ESN) is a UK-wide, student-led network, aiming to support and assist estranged students navigating academia.

    Find out more about ESN by visiting their Instagram page.

    Estranged Students' Network (ESN)
  • The Helena Kennedy Foundation (HKF) exists to overcome social injustice by providing financial bursaries, mentoring, and support to disadvantaged students who are progressing from further or adult education sectors, enabling them to complete their studies in higher education and successfully move into employment. HKF Awards are bursaries of up to £2,250 that are available to students currently studying at a further education college or sixth form and applying to university in September. Applications are usually accepted between January and early April. Recipients for an HKF Award can also access free training sessions, to improve their skills throughout university, and apply for work placements and shadowing opportunities.

    Find out more about Helena Kennedy Foundation or visit their X (Twitter) page.

    Helena Kennedy Foundation (HKF)

Useful contacts

We are working with higher education providers, local authorities, and charities across the country to raise the profile of estranged students and ensure we offer the best support possible.

Contact us

You can contact Wendy and the We Care Team on 0191 515 2216 or by email at estranged.contact@sunderland.ac.uk.