Understanding the Priorities and Support Needs of Carers in Higher Education: A Qualitative Longitudinal Study


Student carers are those in higher education who have a commitment to providing unpaid support to a family member and/or friend who could not manage without their care, including, but not limited to, disability, illness, and/ or physical and/or mental health issue(s). They are an under-represented and disadvantaged group in higher education and are four times more likely to drop out compared to those students without caring responsibilities. To address the challenges student carers face in accessing and succeeding in higher education, supports need to be developed. Much of the existing research focusses on student carer’s health and wellbeing and their academic attainment, little research has explored student carer’s broader experiences and priorities. This research aimed to explore the priorities and support needs of student carers to establish how they can be better supported to engage in higher education and maintain their caring responsibilities. Qualitative longitudinal research was undertaken in which student carers took part in two interviews approximately eight-weeks apart to support a better understanding of the wider factors which impact a student carer’s experience (e.g., exams, coursework, contact hours, and the changing needs of the cared for individual). Data were analysed via inductive, semantic, (critical) realist reflexive thematic analysis. Themes were identified which gave insights into the development of supports for student carers, for example, the creation of student carer support plans, much like those created for students with disabilities. The findings can also be implemented to facilitate the planning and evaluation of future retention and recruitment strategies.

Author Information
Jessica Runacres, Staffordshire University, United Kingdom
Daniel Herron, Staffordshire University, United Kingdom
Fiona Cust, Staffordshire University, United Kingdom

Paper Information
Conference: ACE2023
Stream: Higher education

The full paper is not available for this title

Virtual Presentation

Comments & Feedback

Place a comment using your LinkedIn profile


Share on activity feed

Powered by WP LinkPress

Share this Research

Posted by James Alexander Gordon