Changes to policy are needed to make sure the needs of academic staff and students with caring responsibilities are met, according to research by Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).
Research reveals need to care for those who care
Earlier this year Professor Marie-Pierre Moreau published a report funded by the Society of Research on Higher Education looking at the experiences of senior academics with caregiving responsibilities at 17 different institutions across the UK.
One academic based at a higher education institution in England, who had cared for several elderly relatives, talked of the strong impact of being a carer on her life and of the limited support she had received: “I’d had a lot of years of caring for older relatives and their deaths, and it pretty much wore me down.”
Another academic at a different university said: “I think being Head of Department would be incredibly difficult and I didn’t feel I could do it while I had a young child. I’m not even sure I want to do it now with an older child. I certainly wouldn’t feel up to doing something at the level of Dean, Head of Faculty, that role requires a combination of total focus and being very, very physically present.”
The report recommends that education bodies collect more, and better data about carers to inform policy and practice, providing accessible information to staff and students so they can access support and participate in networks. It also suggests flexible policies to ensure the needs of caregivers are met.
Professor Moreau said: “The research shows that it can be a struggle to balance caring responsibilities with work or study, with people feeling the need to separate out their personal and professional identities.
“Caregivers are also at risk of experiencing poor physical and mental health, with their dual status often negatively affecting their retention and career progression.
“Those with caring responsibilities other than caring for healthy, abled children were found to be the ones more likely to experience a sense of struggle and to receive less formal support. Tensions also depend on the nature of the position, with leadership and management positions viewed as particularly incompatible with caring responsibilities.”
Professor Moreau and fellow researchers will present their findings at an event at ARU’s Young Street building in Cambridge from 1pm until 4pm on Tuesday, 15 October 2019.
The event will see the launch of briefing papers which provide guidelines and recommendations of how to tackle some of the issues facing caregivers in education. There will be presentations from Professor Moreau and Dr Emily Henderson, of the University of Warwick, and a panel discussion.
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