OXFORD University taken the 'Stand Alone Pledge', to commit to improving the student experience for undergraduates who study without family support.

The university will create a non-repayable bursary of up to £7,200 a year for costs outside of term time and unlimited access to counselling resources. Vacation accommodation will also be provided.

Research suggests 86 per cent of UK students rely on family support at university, but around 9,000 have no family contact, leaving them financially and emotionally vulnerable.

Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education Professor Martin Williams said: "The university is committed to ensuring equality and diversity in its student population. Recent research and awareness raising in the HE sector has led us to recognise that not all students will be studying with the support and approval of their family network.

"This can lead to significant barriers for students, who lack family capital. As well as improving support and access to it, we will work with Stand Alone to train welfare staff in colleges and others in key roles to understand the issues faced by estranged students, and how we can best support them."

Becca Bland, Chief Executive of Stand Alone, added: "Students are often assumed by default to have family support, and there is often an inbuilt structural need for students to fall back on the resources that family may supply, such as housing over the summer period and a place to celebrate Christmas. Recent reports have indicated that the living costs for students are spiralling, and without family behind you, making university work financially is a huge challenge.

"We're so pleased that two of the UK’s top research universities have recognised the barriers that students who are estranged from family may face in this sense, and we hope this pledge will help more young adults at these institutions feel confident in coming forward to access the help and support which may level the playing field for them."