Access and Widening Participation


Estranged students

UCL recognises that when applying to and entering higher education, young people who no longer have contact with either of their parents may encounter challenges.

student sitting with laptop

This page contains information about how UCL's Access and Widening Participation team can support estranged students in their journey to university, as well as the support they can access once they get there.

On this page:

What does 'estrangement' mean? How do I know if I'm estranged?

Within the context of our widening participation work, estrangement means that you have no relationship with, or support from, either of your parents. The situation is permanent and there has been no contact with either parent for at least a year. This does not apply to single-parent families, as you are still in contact with one parent.

If you do not have contact with your parents, but are supported by your local authority and classed as a looked after child or care leaver, then please visit our dedicated support webpage.

Access UCL

Access UCL is our contextual offer scheme for applicants from some groups that are underrepresented at UCL. Access UCL eligible applicants that are successful in receiving an offer from UCL will receive an offer that is lower than the standard entry requirements for the programme.

Applicants who are permanently estranged from their family and have been for at least a year, and who will be under the age of 25 on their first day at UCL, may be eligible for Access UCL. Please make sure you tick the ‘estranged student’ box on your UCAS form. We will contact you via email to verify your estranged status. Please see the Access UCL webpage for more information.

Opportunities at UCL for estranged students in school or college

Estranged students who attend a non-selective state school are welcome to apply for any of our widening participation activities, as long as you meet any other criteria. To make sure we can identify you and give your application additional consideration, please make sure to tick the box confirming that you are an 'estranged student.'  For full details of our targeting criteria please see our Who we work with page.

If you are uncertain about whether you meet the estranged student criteria or grade requirements, please contact Jalal Pour and Michele Sahiri wp.pre16@ucl.ac.uk who can discuss your situation with you. 

Additionally, we do offer some activities specifically targeted at students estranged from their families: 

  • Experience UCL is an exciting opportunity for year 12 or 13 students to visit UCL and learn about life as a student: you will spend a day with two current undergraduate students, go on a tour of the campus, and seek advice from members of UCL staff on topics such as applying to university, support services available and financial support. Head over to the Experience UCL webpage to see further details and access the application form.

The UCAS application - tick the box

UCAS has introduced a new section in the application so you can share more information about your circumstances with the university or college that you are applying to – including whether you are estranged from your family.  This information is treated confidentially and only shared with those responsible for arranging support and helping you with your application. Knowing about your circumstances may also help admissions staff to consider your achievements in context – it won’t reflect negatively on your application.

Ticking the box in the UCAS application is a quick and easy way to let your chosen universities know that you would like to know more about any additional support they can offer, and they may get in touch with the details. 

You may also be interested in this personal statement guide, which UCAS put together with Stand Alone with tips specifically for estranged students.

Financial support - 'independent student'

If Student Finance categorises you as an 'independent student', they won't take your parents' income into account when working out how much maintenance loan you can get. There are several ways you can be classed as an independent student by Student Finance - one of which is being permanently estranged from both your parents.

If granted independent student status, it’s likely you will be entitled to the full financial support available from Student Finance. For further information about applying for student finance as an estranged student, see Stand Alone’s Student Finance Guide.

Students who have proved their estranged status to Student Finance may also be eligible for additional financial support from UCL. This includes:

Support once at UCL

If you do decide to make an undergraduate application to UCL, then there will be plenty of support on offer once you get here. In fact, UCL has been recognised by the charity Stand Alone for its efforts to develop support for estranged students.

At UCL, you can access dedicated support services covering everything from academic matters, your mental health and wellbeing, or even just adapting to university life. Details of these can be found within the Student Support and Wellbeing webpages. We also have a dedicated webpage outlining the different forms of support specifically available for estranged students, including details on 365-day accommodation.

Suzanne Hewings, Senior Student Success Officer in the UCL Student Success Office, is Student Support and Wellbeing's named first point of contact for care experienced and estranged undergraduate home students. This contact is there for students from the pre-application stage all the way through to graduation, to ensure that your journey through UCL is as smooth as possible. Suzanne is able to put you in direct contact with relevant support services at UCL. You can contact Suzanne by email.

Where can I look for further support?

Resources for Care Experienced and Estranged Students. This guide has been created by a care experienced current UCL student in collaboration with the Student Success Office.

Stand Alone is the best place to start. It is a charity which supports people of all ages who are estranged from their family and in need of guidance on any issue, including applying for student finance as an independent student. They also have a number of useful guides available on their website, which we'd strongly encourage you to look at. 

UCAS has a dedicated webpage with information and advice on applying to university as an estranged student, including guidance on using your experiences to enhance your personal statement.

An independent peer support network of care experienced and estranged students have created a website that brings together information and advice on over 30 different topics, including applying to university, to help anyone growing up and into adulthood with limited family support.