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New module for Scottish unis supports student carers

Carers Trust Scotland and The Open University in Scotland have joined forces to help improve support to thousands of student carers in Scotland, who are studying alongside providing unpaid care for a family member or friend who is ill, frail, disabled or has mental health or addiction problems. 

Carer Aware at University is a new online training module which has been developed by Carers Trust Scotland and The Open University in Scotland with funding from The Scottish Funding Council. The module will help university staff to better understand the challenges faced by many student carers and provides guidance on how to improve support for these students at university. 

Research by Carers Trust found that: 

  • Student carers are four times more likely to drop out of college and university than those who are not carers.
  • 84% of student carers find keeping good mental health while studying to be a challenge.
  • 87% of student carers can find concentrating on assignments and work at home challenging.
Together, Carers Trust Scotland and The Open University in Scotland are calling on all Scottish universities to use this free resource to help their staff better identify, support and report on their student carers.

Scott Lafferty, Development Manager for Carers Trust Scotland, said:

“Carers Trust Scotland is delighted to have worked with The Open University in Scotland to launch Carer Aware at University, an online module for university professionals. It aims to raise awareness to the challenges that many student carers face and offers guidance on how universities in Scotland can provide improved support to student carers, so that they have a fair chance to be successful in their own education and achieve their true potential in all aspects of their lives.”

Student carers can greatly benefit from dedicated support from their university and the Carer Aware at University online module should help improve outcomes for student carers after study. 

Shona Littlejohn, Depute Director, Student Experience & Widening Access, at The Open University in Scotland, said:

“Carer Aware at University is built around the stories of student carers as they share their experience of caring for a family member or friend, and the impact that has on their university studies. Huge thanks go to the many student carers who contributed to the course. This makes it a very compelling resource and really helps university staff better understand the challenges student carers face in juggling their unpaid care role alongside studying.”

This new resource complements existing work being undertaken by both organisations to raise awareness, improve identification and ensure adequate support is in place to give student carers a fair chance to be successful in their own education.

Since 2017, Carers Trust Scotland has been rolling out Going Higher for Student Carers Recognition Award, a scheme to assist and encourage all 19 of Scotland’s universities to develop their policies and practices to improve support for student carers, and award good practice.

The Open University in Scotland achieved the Going Higher for Student Carers Recognition Award in 2020, demonstrating their commitment to improving their support for student carers.

Many student carers remain unidentified and unsupported at university and continue to be a hidden group. There are student carers in every university trying to successfully complete their course to the best of their ability just like their peers. Yet, they often experience additional challenges because of their unpaid caring responsibilities and do not always receive the support they need to successfully complete university.

This prevents students with caring responsibilities from reaching their full potential, maintaining good health and wellbeing, and having equal access to the opportunities open to other students. Additionally, due to the impact of the current Coronavirus pandemic, we know that many student carers are taking on additional caring responsibilities, therefore increasing the need for support at university. 

The Carer Aware at University module was developed with partners in the University of Stirling, Heriot-Watt University, Glasgow Caledonian University and the College Development Network.

(Photo by Nathan Anderson). 

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