Towards a Care-Inclusive University
As we celebrate International Day of Families we can also celebrate the greater visibility of families within higher education environments. As I walk around Brayford Campus it’s wonderful to see students and staff bringing family members to enjoy our green spaces, cafés and eateries. Research shows, however, that there is a long way to go before education institutions become fully inclusive to families, carers and parents.
By Rebecca Sanderson
For higher education students with caring responsibilities there are noted challenges. The rhythms of academic life- assignment deadlines, lectures, exams-don’t always align with the needs of those we care for. Access to childcare and social care is increasingly difficult and expensive. Students may feel torn and guilty, juggling caring, paid work and study and often having little time left for rest or leisure. Our recent national study with student carers and parents shows the negative impact these pressures can have on student wellbeing.
"Research shows... that there is a long way to go before education institutions become fully inclusive to families, carers and parents."
Staff can also face similar challenges. Education work is often seen as vocational, and professional support and academic staff are driven to ‘go the extra mile’ for their students, colleagues and their research. This dedication can come at a cost for those who also need to provide care to loved ones.
Universities have been described as “care-less” places, with scholarly activities considered at odds with the care labour of carers and parents. Yet many of us recognise that care is central to academic life. Caring about students, supporting their studies and wellbeing, being supportive and collegiate for our colleagues or working to address the injustices which many face within our education system- all of these can be considered acts of care. Yet this care is often hidden, undervalued or overlooked despite the fundamental importance to our universities. Only when we learn to truly value these acts of care we can begin to build a care-inclusive university.
To join the CaP Club email: firstname.lastname@example.org