The care-less academy? Making space for parents and carers in higher education

Rachel Spacey, Rebecca Sanderson, Amy Zile

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Within Higher Education (HE) research there is increasing interest in the links between student identity, experience, and wellbeing, particularly in relation to minority student groups. One such group is Students with Caring Responsibilities (SCRs), consisting of both students who are carers and/or parents (including those students who undertake the role of carer and parent), who it has been suggested have been actively constructed as ‘other’ in academia (Moreau, 2016) such that their experiences and needs are not well understood.  Indeed, HE has been described as a ‘care-less’ environment, characterised by competitive individualism within which students are assumed to be unencumbered by the responsibilities of care (Lynch, 2010; Moreau, 2016). This article details findings from a rapid evidence review and online survey of a UK research project titled Who Cares? funded by SMaRteN (the Student Mental Health Research Network). The project explored the challenges faced by SCRs with a focus on their wellbeing and was shaped by principles of co-design and collaboration and, resisting a deficit model approach, also highlights the strengths which SCRs bring to their studies and their institution. For universities to become truly inclusive, these strengths should be recognised, and ways found to empower SCRs to reshape the university into a ‘care-full’, not ‘care-less’, institution.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-33
Number of pages27
JournalWidening Participation and Lifelong Learning
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2024

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