QMU Policy on Supporting Student Carers (2019)
This policy has been formulated in recognition of the obstacles student carers face in accessing and pursuing degree level study and offers guidance to prospective and current students and staff on the processes and practices in place at QMU to support student carers throughout their learning journey at QMU.
QMU is committed to widening participation amongst students who have previously been inhibited from entering Higher Education for social, economic or cultural reasons. QMU seeks to increase student numbers from non-traditional groups including those that are first generation to go to Higher Education, from low progression schools, reside in communities in the lowest 20-40% of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (MD20/40), articulating students from Scotland’s Colleges, or those who are Care Leavers or Student Carers. Student carers can be faced with particular demands of time management including the stress associated with care and managing other related responsibilities. This can disadvantage them in gaining the necessary qualifications for degree level study entry and whilst Carers can have more limited opportunities for paid part-time employment whilst studying, as well as opportunities for social engagement and integration with other students.
Definition of a Student Carer
A student carer is defined by the Carers Trust Scotland as “anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support”. Ordinarily this does not include parents and carers of children, except where a child has particular care needs resulting from a disability. Students who are parents and carers of children can be supported through the Childcare Fund and the Discretionary Fund and should seek advice from their Personal Academic Tutor or the University’s Student Funding Advisor based within Student Services. The definition above does not apply where a student has a work placement or paid employment as a carer.
Disclosure of carer responsibilities can be made as part of our admissions process (via personal statement), annual registration, to the Student Carer Champion or a member of staff. QMU recognises that carers may choose not to disclose this information at the admissions stage, or their caring responsibilities may lead them to identify themselves at a later stage, as they may take on new caring responsibilities while at university or existing caring responsibilities may require greater commitment of time and effort. It is the responsibility of the carers to provide appropriate confirmation of their carer status, however, the University recognises the diversity of caring responsibilities and situations and that therefore a variety of supporting documentation may be accepted as confirmation of student carer status.
The following supporting documentation may be regarded as acceptable confirmation of the student’s status as a carer:
- Self-certification regarding the nature of the caring duties and how this may affect their study, including how long they anticipate this will last;
- A doctor’s letter confirming that they have the responsibility of caring for a friend, relative or neighbour and any perceived impact on the student;
- A local authority carers’ assessment/support plan/young carers statement;
- A Young Carers Authorisation Card;
- Any other reasonable evidence.
At any point, the University may request further information or evidence to confirm caring status or any changes to the student carer’s responsibility.
Although there is currently no formal mechanism for self-identification in the UCAS application, student carers can be identified through information given in the personal statement and reference. Admissions Tutors and Staff may request evidence of carer status through one of the documents mentioned in 2.1 before confirming any offer to the applicant.
Student carers will be added to our Widening Participation student groups and are therefore entitled to apply for transition support offered to WP students, including QMAdvance and QMConnect.
Students should be asked about any caring responsibilities as part of the matriculation/enrolment process and have another opportunity for self-identification at that point. This will also help the University gauge the numbers of students with caring responsibilities.
Absences related to caring responsibilities will need to be managed and penalties for absence may be inappropriate. Personal Academic Tutors and staff managing Stay on Course and the Attendance Monitoring Project will need to have appropriate consideration for the circumstances of student carers.
On-going caring responsibilities can mean that there may be recurrent occasions when mitigating circumstances will apply to student carers and such responsibilities should not have to be repeatedly demonstrated in support of mitigation. However, evidence of particular one-off issues related to caring may be appropriate.
Review of Status
Caring responsibilities may change over time with the demands on carers increasing, diminishing or ending. There should be opportunities for student carers to review their support needs in discussion with an appropriate member of staff such as their Personal Academic Tutor.
A Student Carer Champion (SCC) for QMU will act as main point of contact for all initial enquiries coming through Student Services channels. SCC contact details should feature in all policy promotion i.e. print publications, website, social media etc.
Responsibilities of Staff and Students
Key Personnel: Staff
- Head of Admissions: oversees admissions policy and related processes
- Transition and Pre-Entry Guidance Adviser: pre and post entry, a key contact for information, advice, guidance and support for students from WP backgrounds
- The Personal Academic Tutor: the student’s first point of contact for academic and non-academic matters
- Head of Outreach and Community Engagement: will act as Student Carer Champions and responsible for monitoring and reviewing the Supporting Student Carers Policy as well as producing an annual report on student carer support and academic progress.
Responsibilities of the Student Carer
- Carers are encouraged to self-identify at the admissions or enrolment/matriculation stage so appropriate support can be accessed. Non-disclosure or late disclosure or lack of confirmation of care status will limit the University’s ability to offer appropriate support for a student with caring responsibilities.
- It is the carer’s responsibility to provide confirmation of their carer status (see 2.1 above).
- Carers should ensure that they discuss with their personal academic tutor any issues affecting study, participation in classes, assessments etc. They can also discuss these issues with the Transition and Pre-Entry Guidance Adviser.
Guidance for Staff
- Staff should take note and be aware of the particular issues affecting a student carer and take appropriate action in relation to
- Staff should ensure that the student carer has every opportunity to engage with their studies including the opportunity to catch up and access any work missed.
- The provisions of this policy are not designed to give special treatment or undue advantage to the student carer, merely to allow them to fully participate in their learning without being disadvantaged. Where requests for support or consideration cannot be granted clear reasons must be given and the student advised of the appropriate appeals and/or complaints mechanisms.
- Advice and guidance for staff is available from the Head of Student Services, the Head of Outreach and Community Engagement and the Transition and Pre-Entry Guidance Adviser.
Head of Outreach and Community Engagement