New project to support student carers

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Staffordshire University is leading a project to better support students with caring responsibilities alongside their studies

1 in 8 adults provide unpaid care for family and friends, according to Carers UK. Yet there is limited data about the numbers of carers attending university and their experiences of higher education.

A recent Staffordshire University study shows that without the necessary support, caring responsibilities can have a negative impact on student carers’ physical and mental health, university performance, decisions and social life. It can also impact their financial status and employment opportunities.

In response, researchers from the School of Health, Science and Wellbeing are currently working with colleagues across Staffordshire University to pilot a new student-carer peer support program.

Dr Jessica Runacres, Senior Lecturer in Research Practice, explained: “We haven’t found many practical interventions to help student carers. Many universities have rigid rules and policies which do not suit their flexible needs. Because of this, student carers often rely on, and prefer, informal support from peers.

“The peer mentoring program will not only provide valuable support for students but an interesting opportunity for some qualitative and quantitative research. There is little research which examines the impact that studying has on an individual’s ability to provide care, and, as the government are pushing for more people to be cared for at home, the need to understand this is high.”

The researchers will conduct a UK wide study to gather quantitative data about student carers. This will involve collecting a variety of information including measures of resilience, wellbeing, FOMO (fear of missing out), gender, ethnicity, deprivation indices, caring hours, type of care provided, detail on the person cared for, level of HE study, course studied, and course attainment.

Dr Daniel Herron, Lecturer in Psychology, said: “Universities generally don’t capture demographic data about carer status so we don’t know how many student carers are in higher education and might need additional support. Our research also found that some carers feel unable to disclose their status for fear of being negatively judged by their institutions.

“Our aim is to gather more data to help us better understand their university journey and how being a carer affects their decision process. A large-scale quantitative study will fill a huge gap. Hopefully these findings can then be used to inform university policy across the sector and ultimately help carers to get the most out of their higher education journey.”

Student carer experiences of higher education and support: a scoping review is published in the International Journal of Inclusive Education.

Amy Platts

Media Communications Officer

t: 01782 292702

07799 341911


Staffordshire University is the Connected University; connected to the needs of students, academic partners, business and society. Our main city campus in Stoke-on-Trent features excellent learning and teaching facilities and good transport links. We have specialist Centres of Excellence in Healthcare Education at Stafford and Shrewsbury.  

We were recognised with a Gold award in the 2019 Teaching Excellence and Student Outcomes Framework (TEF) for delivering consistently outstanding teaching, learning and outcomes for students.  

We were shortlisted for University of the Year at the THE Awards 2020 and were named ‘Midlands University of the Year’ at the Midlands Business Awards 2020. 
Staffordshire University has signed up to the Civic University Agreement, pledging to play a leading role in improving the regional economy and enhancing quality of life in local communities. We were recognised in the top 15 for social inclusion in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2021. We aim to be a leading university for digital technologies building on our proud computing heritage and in 2019 launched Staffordshire University London’s Digital Institute which is committed to preparing students for careers in new and emerging tech industries. 

We are a Top 250 Young University (Times Higher Education Young University Rankings 2020) and are connected globally, with more than 11,000 people studying Staffordshire University degrees overseas.