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WELS Professor in talks to roll out OU carer learning programme in Australia

Photograph of Sydney Harbour Bridge in Australia, with the Sydney Opera House in the background.

Professor Mary Larkin has initiated the international rollout of the groundbreaking ‘Learning for carers at The Open University’ programme, co-produced with staff and carers from Carers Centre Tower Hamlets (CCTH) and an OU research team comprising herself and fellow WELS academics, Dr Chris Kubiak and Dr Nichola Kentzer.

Professor Larkin was recently invited to Sydney, Australia, to give the keynote speech at the hybrid stakeholder seminar, ‘Learning and reskilling pathways for carers: Towards a more carer-inclusive higher education sector’. Organised by Carers New South Wales (CNSW), it was attended by service providers, educators, and carers, where together they explored ways to improve carer access to Higher Education.

Carers often face time, financial, geographical or educational constraints regarding learning and therefore miss out on personal development opportunities. With several industries experiencing vacancies because of skills shortages, Australian employers are keen to unlock the ‘hidden talents’ of the country’s millions of paid and unpaid carers.

In addition to talking about ‘Learning for carers at The Open University’, Professor Larkin shared information about the excellent support the OU provides to carers. Among these are the updated Carer Help Centre page for students; a Student Carer Policy; training courses for all staff working with students who are carers; dedicated carer forums; the Carers Scholarship Fund and more.

Professor Larkin also met with the CNSW policy team, the CNSW Carer Knowledge Exchange project team (including staff from the University of Technology, Sydney) and Carers NSW Young Carer Advisory Group.

Elena Katrakis, the seminar lead and CEO of CNSW, hailed the OU programme as being “full of fantastic ideas” and showed eagerness to replicate it across Australia.

Headshot photograph of Professor Mary LarkinProfessor Larkin said:

“It was an honour to meet with so many of the CNSW team and to be invited to speak about the OU’s ‘Learning for carers at The Open University’ programme at this seminar. We look forward to working with them in order to be able to offer this initiative at an international level.”

This latest achievement will build upon Professor Larkin’s already significant impact on the national and international caring world. She was ‘Carer research and evidence lead’ for the NICE Guideline Committee – Provision of support for adult carers; co-founded the International Journal of Care and Caring (IJCC); set up the Carer Research and Knowledge Exchange Network (CAREN); and founded the OU’s Carers Scholarship Fund, which provides funding for 50 carers a year to complete an OU qualification of their choice.


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