For the average Fresher, becoming a student involves learning to balance the new responsibilities of studying, socialising and learning to look after oneself. However, for a significant minority, this struggle can also include the responsibility of looking after a loved one.
On December 6th, the University of Glasgow introduced a new policy which targets this mainly invisible group; students who, any point in their University career, care for a relative, close friend or neighbour who suffers from illness, a disability, mental distress or substance abuse. The policy, which was developed by the SRC, should ensure carer’s extra responsibilities don’t affect their chances of academic success. The SRC’S Vice President for Student Support, Amy Johnson stated “Every year GUSRC’s Advice Centre deals with cases involving students who are having difficulties fulfilling dual roles as a student and a carer. The GUSRC developed this policy with a view to ensuring the University meets the needs of an often overlooked group who may face difficulties coping with their academic and personal obligations.”
It achieves this by making sure staff, such as Advisor’s of Study and Course Conveyors, are appropriately informed about the fluctuating demands a student might face as a carer and are prepared to make academic allowances. Johnson surmises the long term goals of the policy as a “consistent degree of flexibility and support in the University’s approach to student carers.”
There are an estimated 6 million carers in the UK, yet despite this the SRC’s new policy is the first of its kind at any UK University. The lack of support offered to student carers was highlighted in 2008, when 22 year old student Alex Robinson was denied Carer’s Allowance due to his studying. “I think the law is very restrictive to people who want to combine caring and study,” said Alex.
This quote resonates with the University’s new policy, which will perhaps cause other academic institutions to re-evaluate their approach to student carers.