If you're responsible for providing unpaid care to a family member, partner or friend, you may be able to get extra support during your studies.

This content is provided in partnership with Carers Trust.

Who is a carer?

A carer is anyone who gives unpaid care to a family member, partner or friend who could not cope without their support. This may be due to a long-term illness, disability, a mental health condition, or an addiction.

A caring responsibility may be short term — such as supporting someone with their recovery following an accident, or long term — such as helping someone with a long-term illness.

Caring responsibilities might include physical care (e.g. helping someone out of bed), personal care​ (e.g. helping someone wash), emotional support, ​collecting prescriptions and helping to give medicine​, and providing emergency care. For young adult carers, this might also involve practical household tasks (e.g. cooking and cleaning), managing the family budget, and looking after siblings.

There are many different types of caring responsibilities – and many different types of carer. Here are some examples:

  • A 17 year old supporting his mother who has depression and anxiety.
  • A19 year old supporting her partner with an alcohol problem.
  • A 24 year old caring for his father who has heart problems and mobility issues.
  • A 42 year old looking after their autistic child.

Some students with caring responsibilities might think it's not worth telling the university or college about their circumstances, perhaps because they think it's a temporary situation, or because they don’t think it ‘counts’. However, all carers deal with their responsibilities alongside their education differently, and you may still find some occasional support helpful, especially if your circumstances change. It’s important to make sure it's help is ready if or when you need it.

Young carers share their experiences

We spoke to some inspirational young carers who shared their advice, their challenges, and their insights into higher education and apprenticeships for those with caring responsibilities.

More information and support for young adult carers

These are just some of the many organisations which can help you:

Approx. 375,000
young adult carers in the UK
If you're 16-25 and have a caring responsibility, you're considered a ‘young adult carer’. You will all be facing different challenges and responsibilities.

What support is available to carers in higher education?

If you're responsible for providing unpaid care to a family member, partner or friend, you may be able to get extra support during your studies. This could include:

  • financial help, such as a bursary
  • support with managing your workload and deadlines
  • help with your own health and wellbeing

There’s a variety of help available for students with caring responsibilities, so it’s a good idea to do your research before you apply. We recommend you contact your university as early as possible to discuss your circumstances and any support needs you may have, however small or major they may seem. This will help you make a smooth transition to university and succeed in your ongoing studies.

Some carers think their caring role will prevent them from going to university, even if higher education would help them meet their aspirations in education and work. This might be because of financial reasons, concerns about balancing studying with a caring role, or worrying about who would provide care in their absence if they wanted to move away.

If you're balancing your studies with the responsibility of caring for another person, this can sometimes be challenging. To help you manage this, many universities and colleges have put support in place specifically to help student with caring responsibilities. This can include:

Academic help
This might be flexible deadlines, help with managing your workload, or priority access to academic or career opportunities (e.g. internships).
Financial help
Some course providers offer bursaries and other financial support to student carers. You might be eligible for a scholarship, grant or bursary.
Health and wellbeing support
As well as support services on campus, some unis offer induction days over the summer to help you settle in and give you a chance to discuss your needs
Carer Passport
Some unis run the Carer Passport scheme, which means you won’t have to share your story multiple times with different staff. Find out more about the Carer Passport.
The help you can get will be different at each university, so do your research before you apply. Most will have a website that gives more details, but you can always contact the student services team directly to find out more. They will also be available to talk to on open days, if you plan to visit.

The UCAS application

You can share more information about your caring responsibilities – and any other circumstances – in your UCAS application. This helps universities and colleges to connect you to the right support for your needs and ensure you have all the information you need.

If you provide unpaid care for another person, select ‘yes’ from the drop-down box in the question that asks if you have any caring responsibilities in the ‘More about you’ section of the application. You will not have to give any further details at this stage.

Note: There is a separate question where you can share if you have parenting responsibilities.

What happens when I share my information?

The information you give about your caring responsibilities is treated sensitively and only shared with those responsible for arranging support and helping you with your application (e.g. the student support team). Knowing about your circumstances may also help admissions staff consider your achievements more fully – this is called contextual admissions – read more about contextual admissions.

The university or college may get in touch to tell you more about how they can support you, but we recommend you contact them to discuss your needs directly. Not all universities and colleges offer the same type of support, so research your options before you make your application to ensure they offer what you need.

You are always in control – if you decide you don’t want support, you can choose not to accept it, but if you change your mind later on, or if your circumstances change, it’s ready for you. To find out more about sharing information about your caring responsibilities in the UCAS application, read our FAQs page.

Not sure how to share information about your caring responsibilities? 

Read LEAPS' advice and watch a step-by-step video guide to sharing your caring responsibilities with your unis and colleges in the UCAS application. 
  1. Before applying – do your research

    Find out what support your uni or college offers for carers before you make your final decision. 

    This info will be on their website, sometimes on a student carers page. It's also worth checking their extenuating circumstances scheme. Contact student support services to find out more about the academic and practical support they can offer.

    Other resources to help you research your options:

  2. Before applying – go to open days

    Visiting universities in person is a great way to decide if they are right for you. While you are there, you can also make an appointment to speak to the student services team to discuss your caring responsibilities and support needs.

    If it's difficult to attend an open day due to costs, try contacting the university to see if they can help. If fitting in a visit is difficult because of your caring responsibilities, they may be able to arrange for you to visit another day, and many universities also offer virtual tours and open days.

    Find out more about open days and search for events.

  3. When applying – tell the uni about your circumstances

    Knowing you have caring responsibilities allows the uni to put support in place, to make sure you get the most from your experience. We recommend you do this as early as possible, however small or major your caring role may seem to you. 

    There are several ways you can tell the uni about your circumstances:

    1. Share if you have caring responsibilities in the ‘More about you’ section of the UCAS application – this is the quickest and easiest way.
    2. With your permission, your referee can mention your circumstances in the reference. They can also make sure the university knows if your caring role has had any impact on your studies or exam results (e.g. through absence).
    3. You can also contact the uni after you've received your offers or confirmed your place. If your circumstances change during your studies or after you apply it’s a good idea to let the uni know, so they can support you.

    Knowing about your circumstances can help admissions staff take your achievements into account and gain a better understanding of your potential in context. It will not reflect negatively on your application or academic ability, but instead will enable them to form a more complete picture of you as an individual, and your potential to succeed.

  4. When applying – use your personal statement to highlight your strengths and skills

    Your personal statement is a great place to highlight the skills, strengths, and positive attributes your caring role has allowed you to develop.

    Read more about completing your personal statement, or advice for writing a personal statement as a carer specifically

  5.  Getting ready to go – consider the practicalities and make plans

    Whether you're planning to live at home or move away, it's helpful to think about some of the more practical aspects. Some things to consider might be:

    • finances – as well as applying for student finance, don’t forget to check when you need to apply for any carers’ bursaries or grants. Set aside time to plan your budgeting, taking into account any costs for equipment, books, etc. you’ll need, as well as your day-to-day living costs. Visit our money section for advice and useful resources to help you 
    • travel plans – if you're planning to commute to university, think carefully about travel time at different points in the day, such as rush hour. Find out where you would need to park, or where the train station or bus stops are. If you're planning to move away from home, how you will move your belongings to your new accommodation? Remember to build all travel costs into your budget
    • work placements – if you're taking a course that requires work placements or off-site learning, find out in advance when these are likely to take place so you can make any necessary arrangements and update your travel plans and budget 

Financial support for carers in higher education

All applicants can apply for loans to cover tuition fees where applicable (paid directly to the university), and maintenance costs (paid directly into your bank account). What is available depends on where you live in the UK and your household income.

Note: You cannot claim Carer's Allowance if you are in full-time education – including school, college or university. If you are planning to study part-time (21 hours per week or fewer), you may still be eligible – read more about Carer's Allowance eligibility on GOV.UK.

Mental health and wellbeing

Balancing caring responsibilities and your studies can be stressful, so it’s important to look after your mental health and wellbeing. Most universities will have a wellbeing service team, although it may have a different name. This is usually the best place to find information about the support and services available – from general wellbeing support, to help with a specific mental health condition.

Read more about looking after your mental health and wellbeing at uni.

More information and help for all carers

The Carers Trust website has many resources to support carers of all ages, including information about your rights, how to find support locally, and how to get help with your caring responsibilities.

Carers in the UK have rights in law, which emphasises that they should receive the appropriate support to allow them to meet their own personal goals, including education. There are some differences depending on where in the UK you come from – select your country below for more information from Carers Trust:

Interested in an apprenticeship?

If you have caring responsibilities and are interested in an apprenticeship, find out what you need to know.

Support for carers taking apprenticeships

Fran's story*

Fran is studying at the University of Winchester and has hopes of doing a master’s. She has been caring for her brother who has autism since she was 11. Fran wants universities to make sure that anyone who does care for someone is recognised from the start.

In terms of increasing support at university, it is to make sure that anyone who does care for someone is recognised from the start so the university can make sure that they are not alone and know that if they want and need help there is always someone there! Starting university, I did not disclose that I cared for someone on my university application as I thought it was not needed and to be honest did not want to use it as an excuse. However, since telling someone at university the support that I have gained has helped so much. I wished I had said something at the beginning and do recommend disclosing this on the application as you never know the help or opportunities you can get by doing this.

*Source: Carers Trust guide to 'Supporting students with caring responsibilities'.