The Master of Caius has confirmed that the College will be discussing issues of child friendliness PIXABAY

For student parents, choosing colleges and living in Cambridge can present unprecedented challenges due to current University and College provision of family facilities.

The University operates the Childcare Office, which provides information on a variety of issues relating to family life in Cambridge, as well as three workplace nurseries for student parents.

However only seven out of the University’s 31 Colleges offer accommodation to families: Queens’, Gonville & Caius, Girton, Churchill, St. John’s, St Edmund’s and Trinity. Three college nurseries currently serve six colleges.

Daria Mitko is a Master’s student studying law, and lives in Cambridge with her husband and two-year-old son. She had to switch to Caius after it emerged that the original college she was accepted into, Hughes Hall, does not provide family accommodation. Feeling that student parents are “an underrepresented minority in Cambridge”, she ran for the role of Parents’ and Families’ Officer at Caius MCR. She sought to work with her college to make it “more inclusive” for families, and to contribute to making positive change within the University.

Speaking to Varsity about her efforts to improve the provision of family facilities within the University and its constituent colleges, she believes that with the variation in available facilities across the colleges, Cambridge is in some sense “a lottery” for student parents’ experiences in the University.

Mitko believes that Cambridge is more inclusive for student parents on a University level, with the Childcare Office providing information, and three workplace nurseries. However, on a college level, she believes that there needs to be more “awareness and change."

Currently, there are no baby-changing units or high chairs in her college, while children and babies are also prohibited from Second Hall, offered every evening at 7:20pm.

Mitko is thus looking to implement baby changing units in both female and male restrooms across Caius, as some other colleges, such as Hughes Hall, have already done. She is also seeking to change Caius’ dining policy to give student parents the opportunity to eat in Second Hall. Although she understands that this may be “more controversial” than the implementation of baby changing units, and notes that “not all people would, for various reasons, enjoy babies and children in hall." However, she sees the current approach as “completely disregard[ing]” student parents when children “are allowed in pubs in the UK, not to mention [a number of] other places."

“Everyone would benefit from making [the] College a more friendly, modern and inclusive place”

She is therefore hoping to work with the College to make a “compromise” on the situation, encouraging a move towards being more “inclusive” and welcoming to student parents. The dining policy she wishes to implement does not cover Superhalls, which is the formal hall equivalent at Caius, saying that she understands these are “more solemn and adult events."

However, she emphasises that “normal [Second] hall is just a hall” and she wants to be “present” and give her family “the chance to have this experience." She argues that there is “great room for all sorts of compromise." For instance, the policy can be limited to a gallery in Caius’ Hall if necessary.


Mountain View

Graduate Union calls for action on postgraduate student ‘housing crisis’

She believes this will not just benefit people with young children, as many other students who have mature families in Cambridge are similarly unable to bring them to Hall due to Caius’ dining policy. Similarly, this issue affects undergraduates, many of whom have younger siblings who are prohibited from dining in hall. Mitko emphasised that “everyone would benefit from making [the] College a more friendly, modern and inclusive place."

Despite these challenges outlined by Mitko, Caius is one of only six colleges to offer accommodation to families.

After receiving unanimous support from the College’s MCR and widespread support from the JCR, she is meeting with Caius’ Master, Dr. Pippa Rogerson, in hopes of encouraging the College to work with her on the issue. Rogerson confirmed to Varsity that they will “discuss child friendliness issues further."

She has also spoken to the Graduate Union on the issue, hoping this change can be implemented across all colleges. She sees it as a great opportunity for children to be “at the forefront of a positive change," and she is “very hopeful” that her own College, which she “loves," will be leading the change.

Correction on 27th February: This piece was amended to note that St Edmund's College also offers family accommodation

Sponsored links

Partner links