The Student Parent Stigma

At student parents we have been lucky enough to meet some really inspirational parents who are driven, passionate, loving and determined to make a great life for themselves and their little ones However, it seems not everyone is so in awe of their achievements and stigmatization is a constant problem student parents have to face.

Mary Cooper a university counselor told student parents, “ I have seen a number of student with children. Very often they have a range of issues to talk about but one common theme is that they feel as though they are being judged. Judged by their classmates, their lectures and by their friends and family.”

“People do judge them though so sometimes it is difficult to help them. Prejudice is so ugly and this is what they need to remember. They need to focus on what they have and how lucky they are for having a child.”

Students v Lecturers 

Carley Armstrong a media student at Sunderland University was asked by Student Parents whether she felt stigmatised when she decided to start University aged 21 with a baby. “Oh yeah definitely, other students were like, you’ve got a baby, wow!” She went on to tell me about a time when another student made a distasteful joke about infertility not being  a bad thing. “This really hurt me, it made me feel like they thought having a baby was a bad thing.”

However, Carley went on to say that her tutors and lecturers seemed to be very supportive and understanding of her situation. “Maybe it was because they were more mature or that they were parents themselves. One tutor who sorted my work placements was great. I think she saw some of herself in me.”

Deadline drama

It seems that student parents have very different experiences though. Elizabeth Montague a History student at a top red brick university wasn’t so fortunate. “I was struggling with a deadline as my baby had chicken pocks. I was so worried about her I couldn’t think straight. I went to my lecturer to negotiate a deadline extension. When I explained my situation his face said it all, he looked disgusted. He said, I am very sorry but I cannot agree to this. It is unfair or the other students.”

I wasn’t asking for extra marks, to get away with not doing the coursework. I had a sick baby and I needed a short extension, I was made to feel like I shouldn’t be there doing what I was doing.”

Stigma – the future

Sarah  a student support worker at De Montfort University say’s universities should be doing more to make sure situations like Elizabeth’s are common. “Support not stigma is what these students need and what we need to do in student support is work out a way to raise awareness amongst staff about a student’s situation. They don’t have a normal university experience and they have much more to deal with than the average student and every now and then they need a little more help.”

Have you ever felt stigmatised because you’re a student parent? Get in touch and let us know your story


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