Does your union do enough for you?

Student parents can often be overlooked as a section of the student community, and yet as a group are most at risk of feeling isolated. Juggling studies, childcare and all else that comes with raising a child; getting involved in the activities offered at the union is probably one of the last things on their mind. Yet, it is the role of the student union to incorporate and help all members of the student body. So Student Parents decided to find out which student unions in the UK are best for offering peer support to student parents.

Scouting through student union websites of UK universities; I was shocked to find that rarely did I come across a social group that caters for student parents; in fact only 11% of universities have such a society.

Percentage of UK Universities with a Student Parent Society

On my pursuit of student parents clubs, I discovered that whilst most had a poker and pole dancing society; even a Glee society popped up every now and again, very few catered to student parents. Even those universities that did run a club for students with children, the society was absorbed into other already established groups, such as graduate, mature student, post-graduate or international student societies. It seems that whilst there are many societies for various nationalities, political wings and sports; there are few for societies for a sizeable portion of the student body: those who are parents.

Follow this link to find out if your university has a Student Parent Society

Student Parents spoke to Rob Scully, President of City University Student Union which doesn’t currently have a society for student parents. He explained that “our societies are all created and run by students, so if any student wished to create a society with the aim of providing a support network for student parents we would be quite happy for them to do so. There is a short application process that basically sees our Vice President Activities & Development check over the application to ensure that the society is open to all students, does not already exist and would not raise concerns with our Trustee Board. I cannot imagine that VP Activities would be anything but positive toward such an application.”

So whilst the reason for the lack of student parent societies may be due to a shortage in demand; for student parents who already have numerous claims on their time, is it realistic to also expect them to run a society single-handed? Is this where the student union should step in?

Leeds Student Union: Help at Hand

One Student Union going to lenghts to welcome student parents with open arms is Leeds.

Over the past couple of years, the Equality and Diversity team at Leeds have put together a strategy to assist student parents with advice on finance, childcare and making the union a friendlier place for children. Schemes have been implemented to enable more student parents to bring their children into the union; such as a breastfeeding facility, childrens’ playpacks and menus for children in the union bar. Buggy friendly routes around campus have been signposted for easy access and toy boxes and emergency kits filled with nappies and baby food are also available from the Union reception.

Leeds Union is one of a few around the country that offers a Student Parent Society and termly events for student parents, who often can feel isolated in a student community which mainly caters to the social lives of 18-21 year olds, to meet others in the same boat for advice and friendship.

Saskia

Saskia Hopkins-Middleton, former Leeds student and founder of the Student Parents’ Assembly said, “I think the student union here now has improved so much, they’ve made it a much more family-friendly environment. When I first started I could definitely see a lot of student parents would have felt almost intimidated really to go into the union because it didn’t feel like somewhere that was meant to be for children. It’s definitely improved.”

Student Parents visited Leeds Student Union to see for ourselves the thriving Student Parents Assembly and take note of the initiatives that have thus far made a difference to student parents at Leeds University.

We spoke to Rosie, Diverse Group Co-coordinator about future plans to improve life for student parents at Leeds University.

Charlie Hopper was recently elected for a second year as Equality and Diversity Student Executive Officer at Leeds Student Union. She told about of how she had worked with the Student Parent Assembly to make the union a more welcome place for student parents.

So while some unions are going to great lengths to engage student parents, there is clearly a long way to go. Hopefully, more unions will follow in the footsteps of universities like Leeds, and student parents will be recognised by unions in their own right.

Rob Scully,  confirmed to Student Parents that City University Student Union is “currently developing our 4-year strategy and associated plan which includes conducting wide-reaching membership research that, amongst other things, is designed to provide the Students’ Union with a better understanding of the needs and satisfaction of groups of students, including student parents.” It seems some unions may be moving in the right direction after all.

Robyn

Advertisements
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: