”It has been an uphill battle from the get go”: The experiences of single parents studying at university in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic

Lucy Trotter*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Abstract

Single-parent families represent a significant proportion of all UK families, but literature suggests that they face challenges in accessing, participating in, and completing Higher Education (HE). This article draws on data obtained from three months of mixed-methods research in 2021 with single-parent students to explore the meanings of being a single parent studying at university in the UK in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In doing so it considers the personal demands that the pandemic placed on single-parent students, and the avenues of support available for single-parent students in the context of the UK HE system. These issues are then analysed within a theoretical framework to argue that single-parent students occupied a simultaneous position of agency and mastery in the context of HE. The article concludes with three key recommendations for change: (1) Universities should collect data on student parents and use this data to enable tailored support via student support services; (2) Universities should work with Student Unions to ensure parent-friendly freshers activities and ongoing social/support groups for student parents; and (3) Universities should make concrete changes to campus space, including the introduction of accessible, flexible, discounted childcare on campus, parent and baby rooms, and baby-changing facilities. These three changes would significantly improve the experiences of single-parent students studying at university in the UK.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1042-1053
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Further and Higher Education
Volume47
Issue number8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2023

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • higher education
  • inclusion
  • lone parents
  • Single parents
  • students

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