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Wow: another top national award for University's We Care team

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Published on 26 November 2020

We Care team
We Care team

A scheme which nurtures, develops and supports estranged students through their university life has received a national award for the second time in just a few weeks.

The University of Sunderland’s We Care initiative has once again gained recognition for its pioneering approach to caring for some of their most vulnerable students.

As part of Estranged Students Solidarity Week, the scheme has been awarded a Stand Alone Pledge Award 2020. This is in recognition of the University’s overall institutional support for estranged students, as well as the personal commitment of individual staff members and teams.

The honour comes just weeks after the We Care programme picked up the Widening Access Initiative (Retention and Progression) Award at the NEON Awards, an event which celebrates the transformative power that higher education can have.

Wendy Price, Head of Widening Access and Participation at the University, said: “We have always put our students at the heart of everything we do, working to improve access to higher education and social mobility for a largely forgotten section of society.

“We are delighted to have received this recognition, which also acknowledges the massive personal commitment given by members of the team here.

“In a year when perhaps students have needed more support than ever before, we are resolute in our determination to ensure those most in need are given every opportunity to excel during their university life.”   

The awards were officially announced at a celebration online event on Thursday evening.

It was in 2017 that the University became the first in the North East to sign up to the Stand Alone Pledge to develop support for estranged students.

Taking the pledge meant that the University was publicly committing to supporting students lacking a family network, reaching students who were previously under-represented in widening participation initiatives, but are three times more likely to drop out of higher education.


The team focused on four areas that, according to research, estranged students needed the most support: finance, accommodation, mental health and wellbeing, and outreach and transition.

Estranged students are those who have been irreconcilably estranged from their parents for a substantial amount of time. Around 3,000 students recorded as estranged enter higher education each year.

According to data release just this week, the attainment rate - achieving a first or 2:1 - of estranged students in 2018-19 was 13.0 percentage points lower than students who were not estranged.

Find out more about the University of Sunderland scheme here.