The 'Learning pathways for carers programme'

Kentzer, Nichola; Kubiak, Chris and Larkin, Mary (2023). The 'Learning pathways for carers programme'. In: OU's 7th Biennial International Conference on Access, Participation and Success, 26-27 Apr 2023, Milton Keynes, UK.


Although widening access policies have led to greater prioritisation of students who are carers, they continue to experience considerable disadvantage in higher education (HE) (Carers Trust, 2018; National Union of Students, 2013). Strategies to address their needs remain underdeveloped (Larkin & Kubiak, 2021). In addition, there is a need to better understand possible reasons for the under-representation of this population in HE (Runacres et al. 2021).

A body of work developed by The Open University’s (OU) Carer Research Group has led to significant insights into the experiences of the ever-increasing number of students in the OU who are carers. This research has sought to not only understand the experiences of carers as they study, but also to reduce the barriers faced by carers to enable their access to, and success in, HE.

This seminar will consider the key findings from this work and discuss how these wider insights have underpinned an innovative project using OpenLearn, a free, unlimited resource that offers flexibility, choice, and carer specific learning opportunities. The project, carried out in partnership with a leading carers organisation in the UK - Carers Trust, aims to support wellbeing and an opportunity to upskill for employment and/or further study, including entry to OU courses. The way that this project.

This project started by creating learning journeys for carers in Tower Hamlets – one of the UK’s most diverse area. It has led to a unique ‘Learning pathways for carers’ programme which includes a ‘Learning Guide for carers’ and a ‘Facilitator Guide’ for carer centre staff to support carers to access and study through OpenLearn. The programme will be demonstrated and the plans for the national roll out (supported by Carers Trust) and international roll out (starting with Carers New South Wales, Australia) outlined.

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