New report highlights the lack of support for carers working in HE

  • Tuesday, August 22, 2017

In a report published by Dr Marie-Pierre Moreau, a Reader in Education at the University of Roehampton, it has been revealed that university academic staff with caregiving responsibilities face a range of difficulties including time issues, emotional issues, ill-health and a feeling of not belonging.

The overall outcome of these issues affects retention and career progression of staff. Some academic carers struggle to find the time to develop their research and many feel that senior academic positions were out of reach for those with caring responsibilities.

The report also found that there are significant discrepancies in the level of support given for different types of caregiving responsibilities. Parents or carers of healthy, abled children are more visible and receive more institutional support, while other groups like the parents or carers of children with a disability or those caring for a relative with a chronic illness or an elderly parent tended to receive less support although they often experience the most acute levels of stress.

With the number of carers in the UK expected to reach nine million by 2037*, Dr Moreau is calling for more visibility of the care options available. She recommends raising awareness about care and carers by collecting data to evidence the issues faced by this group, providing clearer information to carers and their line managers and developing specific policies which target carers with clear guidelines. She is also calling for universities to review their generic policies which may seem neutral but are sometimes geared towards care-free academics, despite the fact that an increasing proportion of people are now juggling care and paid work*.

‘While support for caregivers in higher education often goes beyond statutory requirements, there's a real issue about the awareness and recognition of care’, explains Dr Moreau, reader in the School of Education at the University of Roehampton. ‘We found that access to clear information was sometimes difficult for carers and their line managers. Staff are also reluctant to disclose their caring responsibilities as they fear that it will affect their career.

‘With some academics facing such difficulties that could lead to them leaving higher education, it's essential that institutions should have policies and practices in place specifically for this group and review their generic policies as they can be damaging to carers. For example, the late delivery of teaching timetables can be particularly detrimental to carers, whether they are staff or students’.

The report, Carers and careers: Career development and access to leadership positions among academic staff with caring responsibilities, was authored by Dr Marie-Pierre Moreau and Murray Robertson, both from the University of Roehampton, and it was funded by the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education.

Find out more about the University of Roehampton's School of Education.