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One of my priorities in my role this academic year is to work towards providing sessional childcare on campus. Student parents and guardians face very different challenges to those who work full-time, with irregular and sometimes unpredictable hours and many aspects of student life coming by surprise or at the last minute, such as a meeting with a personal tutor or having to attend a rescheduled lecture. These different challenges lead to different childcare needs, with more sessional care required, such as brief irregular drop-offs rather than a full-time place at a nursery.

About 3,500 UCL students identify as having caring responsibilities, with at least 2,500 students caring for younger dependants. Nonetheless, there is very limited provision for childcare, specifically childcare tailored for students, at UCL. There is a UCL nursery available for both students and staff. However, it has limited spaces (67), only offers full day-care rather than sessional provision that can work around students’ academic commitments, doesn’t provide space where students can work alongside their dependants and often requires registration a year (or more) in advance.

Students with caring responsibilities have repeatedly requested sessional childcare on campus and in the 2020 /21 Access & Participation Plan UCL has committed to working with Students’ Union UCL to assess the possibility of providing a sessional childcare service.

To this end, UCL have provided the Students’ Union with a grant designated to appoint an external consultant to come into UCL and perform a scoping exercise. Their task will include, but not be limited to, assessing the implications and feasibility of providing such a service, reviewing the current childcare provisions available on campus, conducting research on high-performing campus nurseries across the UK, and providing recommendations and models for consideration.

A number of other UK universities have successfully implemented sessional childcare on campus, both within and outside London. Particularly of note are those available at Goldsmiths, University of London, and the University of Kent, both of which I am visiting over the next couple of weeks. The knowledge and information I can glean from these institutions, combined with the results of the consultation, should lay the groundwork for us to develop a project plan that would lead to the provision of sessional, student-focussed childcare in UCL.

If you’re a student parent or guardian, we would love to hear from you about your experiences of combining a UCL education with your caring responsibilities, and what might be most useful with regards to childcare services on campus. If you’re interested in participating in a focus group or telephone interview please fill in this form to give us an initial indication of your availability. We’ve also got an online survey to get a measure of what people want so please fill it in so we can make things better.