A north east MSP has welcomed a ‘critically important’ research study for estranged students announced by the Scottish Government.
Higher Education Minister Richard Lochhead confirmed on Tuesday that a wide-ranging Government research project is being launched to better understand the specific needs of students who are estranged from their parents or guardians.
As well as improving financial support for estranged students, Gillian Martin has said she would like to see initiatives to ensure pastoral support and guarantor schemes are introduced in every college or university across Scotland.
This follows her campaign with the charity, Stand Alone. Research conducted by the latter organisation shows estranged students are three times more likely to drop out of further and higher education than any other group.
Ms Martin said: “Scotland is already leading the way when it comes to widening access to higher education and I want to ensure estranged students don’t fall into a gap.
“These young people need to know that their needs will be met if they choose to go on onto study after school. I am delighted that the Scottish Government have agreed to undertake this critical importance research to better assess their specific needs.
“One of the major issues for many estranged students is the barriers they face when it comes to who will be the “guarantor” for tenancies on flats they rent.
“Unlike other students, they can’t call on mum and dad, or corporate parent representatives to sign agreements that guarantee their rent.
“I am keen to see arrangements being put in place that would mean the university acts as the guarantor so they are never on the precipice of homelessness whilst studying.”
Minister for Higher Education, Richard Lochhead, said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring all students, including estranged students, have the same opportunities.
“We had a very constructive meeting today with Stand Alone. We are fully supportive of its efforts at tackling the issues around this vulnerable group of mainly young people.
“Our officials are now planning a study into the numbers of estranged students in Scotland and the support they need. It will be combination of desk-based research, literature reviews, focus groups and surveys.
“The plan will also include considering the extending our existing care-experienced bursary to those who are estranged.”
Dr Becca Bland, chief executive of Stand Alone, said: “We are pleased that ministers are engaging with us around the issues that estranged students face.
“The charity and the students who are campaigning with us welcome the meeting today to further discuss the steps we feel Scottish Government needs to take to bring about more equality in provision for this severely disadvantaged group of young people.”