Does your University offer the childcare you need?

One aspect that can be a particular worry of parents heading off to university is childcare. Especially for those who will be living away from their friends and family; finding childcare that suits you can be vital. So, Student Parents decided to find out which universities in the UK are best for offering childcare support to student parents.

As if through the eyes of prospective students, Student Parents searched through the websites of UK universities to find out what they offered in terms of childcare. This wasn’t as easy as was first predicted. Childcare provision wasn’t easily signposted on some university websites, though after some searching I found most universities in the UK do offer student parents help finding childcare; be it a nursery on campus or arrangements with care providers in the local area.

However, many institutions have pointed out, they are under no obligation to provide childcare for students, and argue that resources can be better used elsewhere. A spokesman from City University Student Centre said , “universities provide education and conduct research.  There is no actual legal duty to provide a childcare service.  We think it reasonable to sign post services available in the local community that can be used by those who live, work or study in the area and that is what we do.”

However, in a poll conducted by Student Parents; 46.1% of you were of the opinion that universities were under obligation to support student parents with providing childcare; 30.8% said that if a nursery was not provided that universities should offer advice and links to local childcare providers, and the remaining 23.1% expressed the view that Universities should be focusing on education, not providing childcare. To vote in our weekly poll go to ‘Your Say’ section and tell us your opinion.

Clearly there is much debate on the issue, with each university tailoring their approach to childcare provision to meet the needs of their student demographic. There is no standardised form of childcare provision, so make sure to  read the fine print to know the details of what you are signing up for.

Follow this link to find out what childcare provision is offered at universities across the UK


Childcare Provision at UK Universities

If you are a prospective student or looking into childcare options; here are some signs to look out for:

  • Many universities have an on campus nursery open to both staff and students. Be careful; with limited places, the nursery can soon be filled up with children of staff, leaving few places open to student parents; especially as staff will be in a more secure position to sign up their children early on. While some universities like Bath and Northumbria have an onsite nursery only available to staff. So make sure you check and don’t assume you will have immediate access to the nursery, even if it is on campus.
  • Be aware that nurseries might have long waiting lists to which they may charge you for signing up, as Helena found out when starting at Leeds University. (Listen to her story below) Make sure to get signed up early and if possible ask your department for your timetable in advance so can plan your childcare timetable around your lectures and seminars.
  • Even though a nursery may be provided on campus or close by; this does not necessarily mean that it is run by the university. This could mean more competition for places and higher costs, so make sure to check this out beforehand. For example, Bright Futures Nursery on Leeds University campus is actually privately run and more expensive than other nurseries in the local area. So make sure to check out what else is on offer before plumping whatever is easiest, it might not be cheapest.
  • All nurseries have to partake in Ofsted reviews, many of which are available on university websites. If not, it might be worth asking to see the latest report when offered options on where to place your child.
  • Each university differs in the number of places and the age range  of children it caters for. Most nurseries seem to cater for 3 months – 5 year old children. In  cases where the birth of your child falls in term time, you may not be able to enroll your child into nursery for the first 3 -6 months, in which case you may wish to seek childcare options elsewhere or consult your support officer. It may be worth consulting your department or adviser on obtaining mitigating circumstances or extending you deadlines if that is the case.
  • Whilst some universities don’t offer their own childcare, many do have advice centres and can provide information on local childcare. Both Huddesfield and Kings College London don’t have onsite childcare, but provide a lot of information and offer a support advisor for student parents who may be struggling.
  • Others have links to local childcare facilities such as City University which is associated with local East West community nursery. Durham University has arrangements with local childcare providers who offer students preferential rates and Royal Holloway has links with Little Echoes nursery next to campus which gives students priority on placements.
  • While it may seem that your university may not offer much in terms of childcare support, its worth asking around to see what’s available to you. For example Newcastle Union runs a baby equipment centre where student parents can borrow equipment they may need but at that time cannot afford.

Listen to Helen and Josina from Leeds University discuss difficulties they have had with university childcare and their top tips for future parents.

Universities can also offer advice on financing childcare.The Childcare Grant could cover as much as 85 per cent of your childcare costs during term time and holidays. If you’re eligible, the amount you may get will depend on: your household income, the cost of your childcare, the number of children you have. This could be up to £148.75 per week if you have one child, or £255 per week if you have two or more children. A spokesman for City University told Student Parents, “students who may find money an issue in securing childcare may be eligible for financial assistance from the university’s allocation of Access to Learning Funds where students with dependent children are considered to be one of the priority groups.”


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