If you no longer have a relationship with your parent(s), for example you don’t see them, or communicate with them, this is referred to as ‘estrangement’. If you have very occasional communication, you might still be able to be considered estranged. We have another webpage which explains what estrangement is, how and why it might happen, and what emotional support is available for anyone affected by estrangement. We also have a blog post about going to university without family support, which was written by one of our Counsellors.
Queen Mary University of London has taken a pledge to outline our commitment to estranged students, with the charity Standalone. Queen Mary has a dedicated scheme to support estranged students to achieve their potential and succeed at university. This webpage outlines this support, which is largely delivered by Welfare Advisers working within the Queen Mary Advice and Counselling Service. You are encouraged to contact us to access this support as early as possible. If you become estranged before you join Queen Mary, you may like to contact us even before you apply for your place, but you are also welcome to contact us at any stage of your course. If you become estranged from your family during your course, or if you are thinking of estranging yourself, please contact us as soon as you can so we can advise and support you. For example we can help you to secure appropriate funding and housing and to try and minimise the impact on your studies. We can also offer emotional support via our Counselling Service, including if you are finding it difficult to decide what to do.
If you are interested to hear other people's experiences of estrangement, the charity Standalone has produced some podcasts which you may like to listen to.
There is guidance for estranged students on the UCAS website about applying, and about coming to university.
The UCAS application form does not currently have a tick box for you to indicate that you are not in contact with family. So it would be helpful to explain this in your personal statement, particularly if you feel your education has been disrupted as a result of your personal circumstances.
If you need guidance about applying to university, your school can usually provide this, but if this is not available or you are not currently in school, you can get some guidance from Queen Mary by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or requesting a call from the outreach team. (although the email says care experienced it is for any student without family contact or family support).
Part of the Student Finance Maintenance Loan, as well as the Queen Mary University of London Bursary, are income assessed. This usually means that you need to provide evidence of the income of your parent(s). However, if you are estranged from your parents, your Student Finance can be assessed against your own income, which usually means you would get the maximum amounts.
How do I apply to be assessed as independent due to estrangement?
If you are claiming independent status on the basis of estrangement, Student Finance England asks you to demonstrate that either:
- you can demonstrate that you are irreconcilably estranged from your parents. This means that for the short to medium term you don’t see that you will be able to resume your relationship with your parents; or
- you have not communicated with your parents for at least one year before the beginning of the academic year for which you are applying for Student Finance
You can’t claim independent status just because you don’t get on with your parents or because you don’t live with them, or because your parents don’t want to give details of their income, or refuse to provide financial support to you.
If you are a prospective student starting at Queen Mary in the Autumn and plan to estrange yourself before or as soon as you become a student it might be possible to be assessed as independent in this situation, Contact a Welfare Adviser who can support you and explain your options.
Welfare Advisers in the Advice and Counselling Service have worked with many students whose estrangement with their parents has lasted for less than one year (often the communication has only just ended in the last few days), or it has lasted one year but there has been some occasional communication, and these applications are usually successful. You can arrange to meet with a Welfare Adviser to discuss your situation, and they can help you to think about how you can explain your situation so that SFE will understand it. With your permission, the Welfare Adviser can email your applicaiton for independent status to SFE, and we usually get a decision with a couple of days.
If you are usually assessed on one parent’s income, because your parent is a lone parent, and that parent dies you will be required to either provide income information for your remaining parent or evidence to SFE that you are not in contact with that parent. Please contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service who can help you with this.
What information should I include in my letter to SFE?
You will need to write a letter to SFE, explaining your estrangement. This does not mean that you are saying you will never be able to resume your relationship with your parents, it is just saying that you don't currently have contact with them, and don't expect to for the foreseeable future. You may be reassured to know that SFE won't show your letter to your parents. You might find that it feels difficult to write all of this information down, as often the circumstances you are writing about will bring up painful feelings. A Welfare Adviser can help you write your letter with you, if you would find that helpful.
In your letter to explain your estrangement, you should try and include the following information:
• what circumstances led up to the estrangement (often someone’s relationship with their parents is difficult for some time before they actually stop having any contact, so you could try and describe this, if it applies to you)
• what you feel are the reasons that the estrangement has happened
• when did it happen
• how did it happen (e.g. did your parents ask you to move out, or did you decide to move out; did you stay with a friend or another family member, or did you start renting your own accommodation, etc)
• what is your situation now (e.g. do you have any contact with your parents at all, if so how often and by what means – phone/email/in person)
• why you feel that for now the situation is irreconcilable (e.g. what is it about the situation that means you believe that you cannot resume your relationship with your parents in the foreseeable future)
Do I need to provide any evidence?
Most students we work with don't have any evidence, because they have not had contact with a professional person in relation to the estrangement, in which case we just send SFE the student's letter and a letter from the Welfare Adviser, and applications are usually successful.
However if someone else knows about the circumstances of your estrangement, for example a professional person outside your family such a as a teacher or social worker, or doctor, then a letter from confirming your situation would be helpful. Sometimes students ask someone who knows the situation, for example a friend or family member to provide a letter. Your Welfare Adviser can discuss evidence with you and whether it would be helpful.
Where appropriate your Welfare Adviser will also write a letter of support for your SFE application. The adviser can email your independent application directly to the Independent Team at SFE, which means you should have a decision very quickly, usually within a couple of days.
Will I need to prove my estrangement every year?
When granting independent status on the basis of estrangement, SFE will either:
- let you know whether they have granted independent status for the course duration. In this case you don't need to reconfirm your estrangement in subsequent academic years but you do need to reapply for Student Finance each year, as all students do; or
- let you know they will ask you to reconfirm your estrangement each academic year, when you are reapplying for your Student Finance. This is straightforward and involves completing a declaration form, which SFE should send to your online account. To complete the form you will need to ask someone who knows you to confirm that you continue to be estranged. You can contact a Welfare Adviser at the Advice and Counselling Service who can normally complete this for you.
If you experience any difficulties in re-applying for Student Finance as an independent student on the basis of estrangement, please contact a Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service.
What do I do if my Student Finance application has been refused?
Please contact a Welfare Adviser for advice as soon as possible. We are often able to help students successfully appeal against the refusal of their Student Finance application. It may just be that SFE have not fully understood your circumstances, or that they need more evidence, which we can help you with.
Queen Mary University of London Bursaries
University Financial Assistance Fund
Young independent students (aged under 25) can also apply to the University Financial Assistance Fund for a grant to help towards paying rent during the summer vacation between each academic year of your course. You might also qualify for a grant during the academic year, depending on your circumstances. More information and a link to the online application is available here.
If you become estranged during your course, you may need financial help to move into alternative accommodation, or for other costs. A Welfare Adviser can advise you about making an application to the University Financial Assistance Fund in those circumstances.
Study abroad semester or year
At Queen Mary we have exchange programmes which allow you to spend part of your undergraduate degree studying abroad, depending on your programme of study. As an independent student you may be wondering how to make this happen, for example how to make the necessary practical arrangements and how to fund the study abroad period. You are welcome to contact a Welfare Adviser who can discuss this with you and help you to understand your options.
You can also find guidance in our Undergraduate Funding guide about Student Finance funding for study abroad. The Global Opportunities team who manage Study Abroad have guidance about additional Study Abroad funding that you may be eligible for, including a specific Study Abroad bursary for students who already qualify for the Queen Mary Bursary.
It is very important to plan your budget carefully for university, so that you understand the costs of living and tuition fees, and where you will get your money from to pay for those costs.
We have prepared an example of an undergraduate student budget on our website, so you can see what kinds of expenses you will have. The cost of living does vary a lot according to lifestyle, so the budget planner is just an example which you can download and fill out for yourself, to create your own personal budget plan.
By planning a budget you will be more in control of your money as you will know your total income, and your total expenses, as well as when you’ll receive your income during the year, and when you will have to pay for expenses. It will enable you to identify in advance any gap between your income and expenses, so you can think how to either reduce your spending or increase your income.
A Welfare Adviser in the Advice and Counselling Service can help you to plan your budget, either before you join Queen Mary or at any time during your course. They can also help you check whether you have applied for all of the funding you are eligible for. There may be sources of funding you have not considered yet – see our advice guide Additional Sources of Funding for details.
You will need to decide what type of accommodation and in what location will be best for you, according to your circumstances.
If you feel settled in your current accommodation, and if you feel that the journey to Queen Mary would be manageable, you might decide to stay there while you are a student. You will need to factor the cost of travelling to university into your budget - see What's the cost of living in London?
Alternatively, you may prefer to live closer to university, or in University Halls of Residence. All first year undergraduate students who apply for university housing by the deadline of 31 May are guaranteed a place, so all you need to do is apply. Once you are offered a place on a course, Admissions will send you information about applying for halls.
If you are an existing student and you have to leave home quickly during the academic year, if rooms are available in halls then you can apply online (existing students should click on 'returning residents') or contact a Welfare Adviser for help with this and other practicalities. Even if rooms are not available on campus long term, we will help you find emergency accommodation which gives you time to look for privately rented accommodation - the Housing Services team can help you with this and there is also lots of information on their website.
Current students can apply to stay in halls of residence during the summer vacation. If you have already been living in halls during the academic year and you get a summer place, you may have to move room. To apply for summer accommodation you just email email@example.com and ask for a summer housing application form to be emailed to you. Summer rooms are allocated from the end of April onwards. There is no application deadline but it is best to apply in April if you can in case rooms fill up.
Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre
As an estranged student, you have the option of having a dedicated Careers Consultant at the Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre throughout your course. Employers are looking to see graduates have developed transferable skills and work experience alongside their academic studies. A Careers Consultant can give you one to one advice and help with building your work experience and skills throughout your time at university. If you attend an appointment with a Welfare Adviser, we can make a direct referral to Careers for you. Alternatively you can contact them yourself.
We will also support you with the transition out of university. Welfare Advisers can provide financial advice and other practical advice, such as thinking about housing.
The Queen Mary Careers and Enterprise Centre can support you with guidance on job seeking.
The organisation Suited and Booted assists men into employment by providing interview clothing and interview advice. The Welfare Advisers in the Advice and Counselling Service can refer you to Suited and Booted if you would like to access their service.
Similarly, the organisation Dress for Success assist women by providing professional clothing and styling, interview coaching and ongoing support.