This blog was kindly contributed by The Unite Foundation and Paige Mackenzie.
This year’s John Lewis Christmas advert highlighted different notions of family and belonging at this time of year. As you may know, many care experienced and estranged students will be staying at university over the holidays, either in private accommodation or halls. Seeing their friends go home for Christmas can be isolating.
Former Unite Foundation scholarship student, and host of the excellent This is Us Podcast, Paige Mackenzie, writes about her reflections on speaking with students on the podcast, and how they’ve said it can feel to be stuck at uni at a time when seemingly everyone is at home with their families. Paige writes:
I know a lot of unis hold events for students over the holidays. It’s great these events happen but I know some care experienced and estranged students – and this was true of me when I was at uni – aren’t keen to get involved.
I was very closed off and felt self-conscious and I didn’t want to be a burden. I also worried I’d be the only one to turn up and then all eyes would be on me. I definitely didn’t want that attention. Making things casual and accessible, and making it easy to just drop in, can help take off the pressure.
On Christmas day itself, a student might be the only person in their halls or in their student house. I would encourage uni staff to reach out and contact care experienced and estranged students over the holidays. It can be a really lonely time and checking in with students can make a massive difference.
One of the biggest things, I think, is that students who stay at uni for the holidays – whether that’s Christmas or another time of year – don’t get the same kind of break that students who go back to their families do. No reset, no one to do their washing or cook them a meal – all the benefits that come with parent privilege. It’s the same things day in, day out. It can feel repetitive and you just don’t feel refreshed in the same way for the new term. Coming back to uni after the holidays can also be emotionally tricky for care experienced and estranged students, as everyone discusses what they’ve been doing over Christmas. But I would say to uni staff: don’t censor yourself in terms of asking students about the holidays just be conscious of the range of possible experiences.
In collaboration with EACES, a network by and for care experienced and estranged students in the UK and ROI, we have produced a resource that offers guidance on how to support, and be inclusive of, your estranged and care experienced students during the winter period and Christmas. You can find it here.
If you’re reading this and you work with students in Newcastle or London, our students are holding get togethers in both cities. We’d love for you to promote them. You can find out details on the Newcastle event on Christmas Eve here and the London event being held on Christmas day here.
And, finally, to the colleagues across the sector who are doing great work to support care experienced and estranged students, we want to say a festive thank you!
The Unite Foundation Scheme offers a unique accommodation scholarship. Applications open on 1 January 2023 and you can find out more here.
Explore our blogs on care leavers and estranged students:
- Lisa, Global Law student and Unite Foundation scholarship recipient, ‘Why every university needs an advisor for care leavers and estranged students’, HEPI blog, 5 December 2022.
- Buttle UK, ‘Choosing between earning and learning: a new report on the experiences of estranged students in higher education’, HEPI blog, 22 November 2022.
- Unite Foundation’s Ira Hakim and a group of students and recent graduates who are care experienced and/ or estranged from their families, ‘Community – a lifeline for care experienced and estranged students’, HEPI blog, 25 October 2022.
- Fiona Ellison, ‘Supporting care leavers and estranged students in higher education’, HEPI blog, 11 October 2022.
- Nyomi Rose, ‘A life-changing scholarship for care leavers and estranged students’, HEPI blog, 29 June 2022.
Other HEPI publications on care leavers and estranged students:
- Sasha Roseneil, ‘Postcodes or personal experience? How best to encourage members of under-represented groups to apply to university’, HEPI blog, 23 September 2022.
- Fiona Ellison, ‘Creating an inclusive and sustainable future for estranged and care experienced university students’, HEPI blog, 26 November 2021.
- Eluned Parrott, ‘How the shutdown of the student economy is hitting the finances, health and educational prospects of care leavers and estranged students’, HEPI blog, 11 May 2020.
- Eluned Parrott, ‘Study from home? What if you don’t have a home?’, HEPI blog, 18 March 2020.
- Steven Spier, ‘Supporting students leaving care’, HEPI blog, 10 May 2019.
- Chloë Cockett, ‘New Insights on WP: Care leavers and their paths to higher education’, HEPI blog, 18 August 2017.
Today’s blogs conclude HEPI’s output for the year. We wish you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and thank you all for your support during 2022. The blog will resume early in 2023.