I graduated from Durham University in June 2018 with a first-class honours degree in Education Studies (English Studies), and I’m currently studying the MA Research Methods (Education) programme at Durham. My PhD project aims to explore the experiences of university students who have no communicative relationship with their parents, identified in policy as ‘estranged students’. As a longitudinal comparative case study, the project will follow 12 second-year estranged students from two universities for one year. One university will have signed the Stand Alone Pledge, a public commitment to supporting estranged students, and the other will have not. The study will examine differences in how the participants perceive themselves as students, their experiences, and the support offered to them by their university, through a series of semi-structured interviews and diary entries. These will be analysed using a Bourdieusian framework and narrative analysis. The PhD will be supervised by Dr Rille Raaper (Education) and Professor Vikki Boliver (Sociology).
The proposed PhD is an extension of my undergraduate dissertation, a small-scale qualitative study of six estranged students at universities in England. It is influenced by the work of, and is being undertaken in collaboration with, Stand Alone, a UK charity which works to support individuals who are estranged from their families. As an estranged student myself, I have had an active role volunteering with Stand Alone throughout my undergraduate studies. I assisted with the launch of the Estranged Students Solidarity Campaign in November 2017, and have been involved in a number of media projects with organisations such as The National Student and the BBC. I have also attended and presented my dissertation research at Stand Alone’s conferences with HE practitioners. I tweet about estrangement (@AmieWaterman97) and blog at https://medium.com/@amiekey10.