University recognised for work to support student carers

The University of the Highlands and Islands has been recognised for its work to support student carers. The organisation collaborated with Carers Trust Scotland to achieve the Going Higher Award.

Introduced in 2017, the award encourages universities to adopt sustainable approaches to identifying, supporting and reporting on student carers.

The university completed and made an ongoing commitment to a number of activities to achieve the award. This includes providing information and support to student carers, raising awareness through staff training and celebrating the successes of student carers.

The news comes ahead of Carers Week which runs from Monday 8 to Sunday 14 June. The annual campaign aims to raise awareness of caring, highlight the challenges unpaid carers face and recognise the contribution they make to families and communities throughout the UK.

Welcoming the award, Dr Iain Morrison, the university’s Dean of Students said:

“We are delighted to have achieved this award. Research by the Carers Trust Scotland has shown that carers are less likely to access higher and further education and that student carers are more likely to discontinue their studies. We want to do everything we can to help carers access educational opportunities and to provide a supportive learning environment for student carers.

“Our university partnership of colleges and research institutions provides flexible learning pathways, allowing students to fit their study around the other commitments they may have.”  

Carers Trust Development Officer Amy Copsey said:

“We are delighted that the University of the Highlands and Islands has achieved the Going Higher Award for Student Carers. The award demonstrates its ongoing support for and commitment to unpaid carers in their journey through further and higher education.”

Professor James M Fraser CBE, Chair of Connecting Carers, said:

“This is a tremendous accolade for the University of the Highlands and Islands. It represents an enormous commitment to supporting student carers. It is a fitting recognition of the help offered to students who combine study with whilst they give care and support to members of their family who are in need. As a former Principal of the university, it also gives me great personal satisfaction at the collaboration between Connecting Carers and the university.”

Speaking about her experience of balancing study with caring, Roma Gibb, said:

“My experience in Inverness College UHI has been incredibly positive. I am studying the access to nursing course and I'm also a carer for my son with Autism and Epilepsy. I have five kids and I work as a carer also.

Juggling all of this while studying has been challenging at times. It’s not always been easy. However, there are plenty of coping strategies that I have developed over the time. I plan, plan, plan. I have a diary that keeps me on track and I kept an open communication with my lecturers and personal development adviser. They had as much time to chat with me as I needed, they gave me extra time when I needed it and they encouraged me if I was feeling overwhelmed.

One time during this pandemic, I had had a very challenging week at home with my son struggling without going to school. He wasn't sleeping and was very unsettled, along with a number of other challenges that we were facing at the time. I had an assessment due and I was struggling to get into the frame of mind to do it. I explained all to my lecturer and he sent me back a very encouraging email, insisting I take a few days out to get some time to breathe. I did this and came back and produced an assessment that I was proud of.  

It is a challenge juggling being a carer, being at college and working. Engaging with it with a positive mind and a good diary makes all the difference. The support I got form my lecturers, my classmates and my personal development adviser was fantastic. They were all at the end of an email whenever I needed them.”

To find out more about the ways the University of the Highlands and Islands supports student carers, visit