Several colleges do not have family-specific accommodationseier+seier

Student parents have access to very different facilities and support depending on their college membership, a survey led jointly by the former Graduate Union (GU) and Cambridge University Students Union shows.

The survey focused on college facilities available for student parents and the extent of support given. This focused on family-specific accommodation, breastfeeding options, baby changing facilities, any additional facilities, whether children are permitted in areas of the college, any additional family-friendly facilities, financial support, nurseries, representation and access cards for partners who may not study in Cambridge.

The survey was sent out to all Senior Tutors through the Senior Tutors Committee and College Childcare representatives in March.

The results incorporate data from 20 colleges – Churchill, Clare, Corpus Christi, Fitzwilliam, Girton, Gonville & Caius, Hughes Hall, Jesus, King’s, Lucy Cavendish, Magdalene, Murray Edwards, Newnham, Pembroke, Peterhouse, St Edmund’s, St John’s, St Catharine’s, Trinity and Trinity Hall – as not all Senior Tutors responded to the survey.

The data shows that while colleges such as Churchill provide more support than many other colleges, St Catharine’s, Trinity, Trinity Hall, Lucy Cavendish and Hughes Hall provide little support in terms of child-friendly facilities onsite, family-specific support and partner access.

“The disparity between Colleges in terms of facilities for families is something we already knew,” Stella Swain, former CUSU Welfare and Rights Officer, told Varsity.

She continued: “Cambridge was not built with student parents in mind, and to this day many Colleges assume that the “default” student is an 18-21 year-old, relatively well-off young person with a stable “home” away from Cambridge. This is just not the case.”

This is highlighted in the availability of family-specific accommodation offered by colleges: St John’s has the most family-specific accommodation with 32 two-bedroom properties for families, Churchill has 20 houses and rooms and Trinity has 10 houses and flats.

Meanwhile, eight colleges – Clare, Corpus Christi, Magdalene, Murray Edwards, Pembroke, St Catharine’s and Trinity Hall – do not provide any family-specific accommodation. Other colleges provide between four to six houses and rooms for families.

Similarly, Churchill, Girton and Newnham are the only colleges included in the survey which have allocated breastfeeding spaces onsite. Churchill’s facilities offer more extensive support than many colleges; breastfeeding is also allowed in public spaces on site and it has baby changing facilities for all genders onsite. The absence of allocated breastfeeding spaces onsite at other colleges means student parents must instead use other rooms such as college toilets.

Only a few colleges – Girton, Lucy Cavendish, Murray Edwards, Trinity and Trinity Hall – allow children to be brought into college libraries, although many have restrictions on the age of children and insist that they must be supervised.

Similarly, children are only permitted in formal hall dinners at Clare, Gonville & Caius, Jesus, Murray Edwards, St Edmund’s and Trinity Hall. All colleges included in the survey except for Peterhouse are permitted in the dining facilities. This means that children at Peterhouse are not permitted in any of the dining facilities or library.

A 2012 research project across UK universities highlighted the importance of ‘Universities’ space policies’, suggesting that student parents who felt that the presence of children was severely restricted experienced feelings of ‘‘not belonging’ in academia’.

Some colleges also offer additional family-friendly facilities and events. Churchill and Girton offer family dinners, and Newnham and Churchill also hold Christmas parties and other social events.

Only Churchill and Peterhouse have play areas on site. Girton does not have a formal play area, but has an indoor social hub with toys available, and children at King’s are allowed to play in the Fellows’ Garden. Children of student parents at St Edmund’s can also play in the MCR common room and gardens when supervised.

Notably, the colleges which do not have a play area on-site – Clare, Fitzwilliam, Hughes Hall, Jesus, Lucy Cavendish, Magdalene, Pembroke and St Edmund’s – also do not have a college-run nursery or offer support accessing private nurseries. Although only Girton and Gonville & Caius have college-run nurseries, many other colleges offer support accessing private nurseries. For example, Churchill, St John’s and Trinity are able to offer priority places at Wolfson Court Nursery, and King’s has a reserved place at the Millington Road Nursery School.

While some colleges – Churchill, St John’s, Lucy Cavendish and St Edmund’s – allow high chairs in eating areas, others – Hughes Hall, Magdalene, Newnham, Peterhouse and St Catharine’s – do not.

“All Colleges should have a baseline of provision for student parents,” Swain told Varsity. “Baby changing facilities in all gender bathrooms, breast-feeding allowed on campus, and basic child-friendly equipment like high-chairs are essential to ensuring that students with children aren’t excluded from College.”

Only St John’s and Trinity offer specific bursary support for student parents, through childcare bursaries and a maternity grant. At other colleges – Jesus, Magdalene, Murray Edwards and Pembroke – financial support is not specific to student parents and students must go through the University Childcare Scheme or hardship funds, in the case of colleges such as Churchill, Corpus Christi, King’s and Newnham.

The data is split in terms of which colleges allow partner cards for students’ partners who are not studying at Cambridge. While Churchill, Clare, Corpus, Fitz, Girton, Gonville & Caius, Jesus, Murray Edwards, Pembroke, St Edmund’s and St John’s issue partner cards, Hughes Hall, King’s, Lucy Cavendish, Magdalene, Peterhouse, St Catharine’s, Trinity, Trinity Hall do not. This result reflects not only a lack of support for student parents and their children, but for the families of student parents.

Partner cards is a “key issue that this survey has raised,” Swain told Varsity. “Partners of students often are not allowed any kind of access card or key, which means that they are unable to access their own home, or College facilities, without their partner.” Given that college accommodation can be significantly cheaper than other accommodation, the lack of support for students and their families means that some students may be discouraged from applying to particular colleges or feel ostracised from their College.


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The same colleges which lack facilities and other support have no Student Families Officer on the JCR or MCR. Although Gonville & Caius, Jesus, King’s, Magdalene, Murray Edwards and Pembroke have some support in place, they also lack any representation for student parents.

The lack of support for student parents extends to the mature colleges which responded to the survey: Hughes Hall, Lucy Cavendish and St Edmund’s. Although St Edmund’s has some support in place, both Hughes Hall and Lucy Cavendish do not have baby changing facilities on-site and do not allow children to attend formal dinners. They also do not have a Student Families Officer on the JCR or MCR. The three mature student colleges do not have allocated breastfeeding spaces or play areas on-site, and do not offer specific financial support for student parents. Additionally, Hughes Hall does not provide high chairs in eating areas.

Swain added: “it’s important that there is not a huge disparity between Colleges, and that Colleges are open about their capacity to support student parents and those with families, so that these students can make informed choices about where to apply”.

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