For the past two years, Marie-Pierre Moreau and Charlotte Kerner have been conducting a study funded by the Nuffield Foundation as part if its Student Parents and Women’s Educational Programme. The aim of the study is to shed light on the experiences of student parents, and to focus on how the policies of universities have affected their lives as students. With the report soon to be published, Marie-Pierre has spoken to Student Parents to give us a sneak preview of her findings, with further details to be announced in the coming weeks.
Marie-Pierre conducted interviews with students and staff at 10 universities across the UK and collated documentation concerning university policy regarding student parents. She collected numerous case studies in order to understand how the student experiences of parents is affected by university policy. In order to gain as great an understanding as possible, the sample of student comprised of a diverse mix of undergraduate; postgraduate, international, full-time and part-time students, though the majority were women. Her findings, to be announced in the coming weeks will explore these key themes:-
- A pattern of ‘invisibility’ regarding student parents as a group was found at national level. Higher Education Institutions rarely mentioned student parents in their documentation, 9/10 universities don’t even collect data on student parents as a group.
- Support for student parents varies dramatically across universities. Whilst some integrate care and facilities to support student parents within the university, others regard academia and caring for dependents as completely separate issues.
- Whilst student parents are a diverse group, there are broad patterns in their student experiences, including:- time issues and the conflicting demands of being a student and a parent; financial issues often exacerbated by the costs of childcare, health issues and the feeling of missing out/not fitting in.
- There is generally a perception that student parents are treated the same as everyone else, which means their specific circumstances often go unacknowledged by universities. The experience of student parents is that institutions often see their responsibilities as a carer as a private matter, instead of an issue that the university should get involved with.
- Student parents found that childcare provision was the most important policy area in which the university could really help with, but mentioned that the availability and cost of university childcare was a problem.
- ‘Time’ issues such as the timetabling of late lectures is problematic
- As are ‘space’ issues: the restriction of children on campus and the lack of baby changing and breast feeding facilities.
We eagerly wait to read Marie-Pierre’s full report and will bring you her full findings when they are published. Thank you for allowing Student Parents the first glance at your exclusive new study.