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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Results from the RHUL Student Parents and Carers Questionnaire 2012

This April we started a Better Care to Learn Campaign as part of our Royal Holloway Women Against Cuts campaign as it had been highlighted that single mothers were going to be hugely effected by the governments cuts . We created a questionnaire for the student parents and carers of Royal Holloway, University of London to get an idea of what studying at Royal Holloway was like for them.

We wanted to find out how these students coped with the complicated balance of studying and home life, as they were under represented in our Students Union. This is not unusual - demanding commitments make it difficult to engage in extra-curricular activities. 

To make sure we were including all students at Royal Holloway, we released a questionnaire which was sent to all departments and forwarded to their students. What was revealed was a clearer picture of the demands of a Student Parent and Carer at Royal Holloway, the time management required and also the essential support of an extended family. Here is a general overview of the questionnaire.

All of these answers are anonymous. If you are or have been a Student Parent and Carer at Royal Holloway, University of London, and would like to contribute and answer a questionnaire, please email and we'll send you a copy for you to complete in your own time. Your answers will be anonymous too. A huge thank you very much to all of our respondents for having taken the time to answer this questionnaire.

General Overview of Results: About the Students Parents and Carers, and their Dependents 
  • All of the respondents were female
  • All primarily parents
  • Aged anywhere between 21 and 47 (average age 29 years)
  • Their children were aged anywhere between 18months and 10years (average age 7years)
  • 40% of the respondents had more than one child
  • 60% were married or engaged

About their studies
  • They had chosen Royal Holloway for it's reputation and proximity to their homes and schools
  • They were in all years of Undergraduate study: 1st, 2nd and 3rd year.
  • They spent on average 50 hours a week looking after their dependents, and 40 hours a week on their course (varies according to essays due)
  • They all relied on their extended family to help looking after the children
  • The younger Student Parents and Carers were worried about repaying their Student Loans
  • The older the children and the more settled the Student was (married, owning their home, older) the more able the Student to cope with the complicated study/home balance. Even so, they had to make sacrifices to other areas of their life such as socialising, and the holiday periods were extremely busy for them.
  • For the other  younger Students, younger children combined with the absence of a supportive partner added considerably to the stress of studying. For these Students an online support network would be very useful for communication with others in the same situation.
  • 80% had thought of leaving University. They stayed due to the drive to be able to get a good job after University to provide for their children or due to approachable tutors and an interesting course.
  • The stresses of their commitments had lead to weight gain, panic attacks, fatigue and poor immunity to colds such as tonsillitis.

Support on Campus

  • None had used Little Echoes, the on-site creche, because it was too full when they applied. None needed an on-site creche as they had found alternative arrangements.
  • None had need for a Breakfast Club on campus, as their children were too old or being taken care of elsewhere.
  • The lecturers and tutors gave the impression of having no time, which lead to the Students feeling uncomfortable about bringing up their situation if they needed extra support. However, a few lecturers and tutors were very approachable and this was clearly appreciated by the Student Parents and Carers.
  • The older Students who appeared more settled relied on their lecturers and tutors only for academic support, and some were in the 20% who had never even mentioned their dependents to the academic staff.
  • The younger Students however wanted to be able to approach their lecturers for support, advice or even guidance to support services in relation to their academic course, their time commitments and their health. For these Student Parents and Carers, an online network was essential, as were approachable staff.
  • The early release of timetables for course choices, and the accessibility of course content such as lecture slides online were very important in facilitating their studies.

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