Carers and higher education: Where next?

Larkin, Mary and Kubiak, Christopher (2021). Carers and higher education: Where next? Widening Participation and Lifelong Learning, 23(2) pp. 130–151.




Although widening access policies have led to greater prioritisation of carers in higher education, strategies to address their needs remain underdeveloped. This paper puts forward a dual approach to progressing this agenda that recognises all students who have or have had experience of caring. Using an established theoretical lens on retention, institutional strategies for improving the success of carers studying in higher education are proposed. These strategies include flexible study programmes; affordances for social engagement; recognising carers’ unique career trajectories: providing financial aid and advice; and establishing systems to identify student carers. The second element of the dual approach focuses on improving and extending the currently very limited evidence base on carers and higher education so that it can underpin and progress the development of effective strategies and initiatives. Central to this is the universal adoption of the term ‘caring-experienced students’; local and national student carer registration and record-keeping systems; sensitivity to differences within the caring-experienced student population; adoption of a strengths-based framing of caring-experienced students; and establishing knowledge exchange mechanisms to share new knowledge. The analysis presented aims to stimulate thinking and serves as a timely steer for further debate about carers’ participation and retention in higher education

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