Recognising Students in Higher Education Who Care for Children

DENT, Samuel Rhys (2019). Recognising Students in Higher Education Who Care for Children. Doctoral, Sheffield Hallam University.

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In UK higher education (HE), different groups of students have moved into and out of the focus of policy and practice, under the headings of widening participation and the single Equality Act (2010). This often-changing focus has the potential to lead to inequitable experiences for those students who do not fit into any of the traditional student typologies. In this thesis, I seek to further explore inequities in HE, specifically through considering the experiences of Students who Care for Children while Studying (CCS Students). This group does not fall directly within the lens of educational policy focus and is often discussed only broadly in terms of gender and age – thus missing the unique barriers and experiences attached to caring for children. My research, therefore, contributes to a small body of existing literature into student parents. I present an Institutional Ethnographic (IE) study (Smith, 2006) involving 16 CCS students at a research-intensive UK University, collected over two academic years. Interviews with six members of staff from different areas within the institution are also used to gain further insight to the institutional context of this study. I find that the experiences of CCS students can be complex, variable and related to individual personal circumstances. However, three recurrent themes are presented in the data, suggesting that: firstly, CCS students experience ‘othering’, whereby their difference from other students is made clear through a range of behaviours from subtle micro-aggressions to explicit hostility toward their needs as carers; secondly, CCS students experience ‘individualisation’, which frames these students as being in deficit and personally responsible for the barriers they face due to the ‘choice’ to be both students and carers; thirdly – and, as a result – this ‘othering’ and ‘individualisation’ leads to ‘passing’ behaviours, whereby students seek to or are actively encouraged to hide their caring status, conforming to a more institutionally accepted homogeneous conception of ‘student’ and their needs. Finally, I conclude, in analysing these three recurrent themes through Fraserian theories of recognition (1997, 2001, 2003), that the principal cause of inequity in the CCS student experience is a cultural misrecognition of their right to be students because of their caring status. Hence, I end by making recommendations which could address the inequity at an institutional and wider sector HE sector level. This thesis makes an original contribution to knowledge in the following ways: by contributing to literature on UK CCS students and how their experiences are shaped on the ground within an HE institution; by adopting an Institutional Ethnographic (Smith, 2006) methodological approach in a UK HE context, I expand IE’s usage, as existing IE research is usually based in the USA and is rarely applied to HE and the equity issues which exist there; finally, by adopting the use of Fraser’s theories of recognition (Fraser, 2003), I expand the use of this theoretical approach in HE from questions of ‘access’ (Burke, 2013; Morrison 2015), to those of ‘participation’.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Thesis advisor - McCaig, Colin [0000-0003-4364-5119]
Additional Information: Director of studies: Colin McCaig "No PQ harvesting"
Research Institute, Centre or Group - Does NOT include content added after October 2018: Sheffield Hallam Doctoral Theses
Identification Number:
Depositing User: Colin Knott
Date Deposited: 03 Apr 2020 11:03
Last Modified: 03 May 2023 02:01

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