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Pioneering new Carers Scholarship scheme launched

Woman kneeling, talking to a child in a wheelchair


Dr Mary Larkin, Senior Lecturer in Health and Social Care, has used the knowledge, expertise and networks developed during her twenty years of carer research, to spearhead The Open University’s (OU) innovative new Carers Scholarship Fund, the first of its type in the world.

Mary said: “22% of all carers live in poverty, with many facing practical barriers to higher education, including time and money. As a result, many carers believe higher education is closed to them. The Carers Scholarship Fund will enable carers to access life-changing education.”

The fund, endorsed by Carers UK and Carers Trust, will provide 50 UK-based carers with funding for a full undergraduate qualification from the OU. To ensure young adult carers are encouraged to apply, 15 places have been reserved for those between the ages of 18-25. Supported by alumni donations, applications are open until 31 July, with studies commencing in October 2020.

Carers UK reports that there are 6.5 million people providing unpaid support for a family member or friend with an illness, disability, mental health condition or addiction. The tasks that they perform can be unexpected and difficult to plan around; disrupting everyday life, from relationships and health to finances and work. The practicalities of studying can be challenging for carers of any age, who often feel guilty about going to university or find it difficult to commit to a timetable because of their responsibilities.

The OU is ideally placed to support carers in accessing education, with an open access entry policy and a distance learning model that provides a flexible way to study. Online assignment submission, discussion groups and contact with tutors ensures that those who cannot attend face-to-face tutorials do not miss out. Registered carers are also able to access the OU’s Student Support Team, who have been trained to understand the challenges that carers may face.

Dr Larkin has been involved in carer research and policy for many years, establishing the ground-breaking Care Research and Knowledge Exchange Network (CAREN), a freely accessible global resource for all those requiring any form of carer-related knowledge. She is also the driving force behind the Care and Caring Network @OU (CCN@OU), a formal corporate network for knowledge exchange around care and caring, the promotion of carers rights within the OU and the provision of information, advice and guidance in carer-related policy development, open to all OU staff.

Through this network, working with its group leaders and members and building on existing expertise, Mary has led the introduction of a number of initiatives, including carer specific advice and guidance, open access courses for carers (see below), pan-OU student carer identification, dedicated student inductions and a Carers’ Pack.


Find out more

Find out more about the Carers Scholarships Fund or to apply (deadline for application is 31 July 2020).

To contribute to the fund and support future intakes of carers, visit the dedicated donation page.

View the dedicated support pages for student carers.

Free courses for carers:

-          Caring Counts: a self-reflection and planning course for carers (Scotland)

-          What about me? A personal Development course for Carers in Wales

-          Caring for adults

-          Caring Counts in the Workplace (Scotland)




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