Are you a student carer?

Heriot-Watt University is committed to offering the opportunity for university study to students from a diverse range of backgrounds who have the potential to succeed.   We are committed to providing access and opportunities to student carers and recognise carers as one of our Widening Participation (WP) student groups

Heriot-Watt University accepts the definition of carer developed by the Carers Trust 

“A carer is anyone who cares, unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, a mental health problem or an addiction cannot cope without their support”.

This definition above does not apply where a student has a work placement or paid employment as a carer.

Students with caring responsibilities can face particular challenges. Some may have faced difficulties in gaining the necessary qualifications for university entry, caring commitments may mean missed classes or difficulties in meeting assessment deadlines. Student carers may have more limited opportunities for paid employment and possibly greater financial pressures. They may also have more limited opportunities for social engagement and integration with other students, thus they may face particular difficulties in staying on and progressing at university, and research shows that student carers are four times more likely to leave college or university early than their peers who are not carers.(1)

   (1) Sempik, J and Becker, S (2014), Young Adult Carers at College and University (Carers Trust).

How Heriot-Watt can support student carers

Applying to University

Heriot-Watt University recognises the difficulties carers have in achieving the entry qualifications needed for university, therefore carers are included in our Contextualised Admissions Policy. The purpose of this policy is to ensure that applicants who may have been disadvantaged or faced particular adversity in gaining qualifications for entry are not further disadvantaged in the application process. Student carers wishing to apply to Heriot-Watt University are welcome to discuss this with Pat Reid, Colleges and Wider Access Officer,

Ask a Student Success Advisor

Student carers who hold either an Unconditional Firm (UF) or Conditional Firm (CF) offer from Heriot-Watt, then you can participate in our Ask a Student Success Advisor programme designed to support you and help prepare you for joining University.

Summer School

Student Carers can register for our three day Summer School which takes place in the three days prior to Welcome Week. This is a great way to get a head start at University, find out what Heriot-Watt is really like from the perspective of current students, and start to develop the academic skills you will need for study and begin to explore the University and its resources. Summer School is free and we can provide financial support if you would like to attend. Contact for more details.

Access Bursaries

Student carers can apply for an Access Bursary which is worth £1,000 a year for each year of study.


We recognise that caring responsibilities may cause student carers to miss classes. We will work with student cares to help manage absences. Where absences are likely to be frequent or prolonged, there is the option of taking a temporary break from study, called a Temporary Suspension of Studies or TSS

Mitigating circumstances

Mitigating circumstances apply when a student is unable to complete an exam or piece of coursework, or not be able to do as well in an assessment as they otherwise might have. Ongoing caring responsibilities can mean that mitigating circumstances would apply on occasions to student carers. We would endeavour to ensure that student carers were not disadvantaged in assessments due to their caring responsibilities.

Reviewing carers' status

Caring responsibilities may change over time with the demands on carers increasing, diminishing or ending. We will ensure that you have the opportunity to discuss any changes in your caring responsibilities and what support you might need as a result.


If you would like to speak to someone about applying or would like arrange a visit to the University, please contact Pat Reid, Colleges and Wider Access Officer,

If you are an enrolled student with caring responsibilities and would like to access support please contact Emma Smail, Student Wellbeing and Transition Advisor,

You can also discuss your caring responsibilities and any impact they have on your studies with your personal tutor.

Evidence of caring responsibilities

We recognise the diversity of caring responsibilities and situations and, therefore, a variety of supporting documentation may be accepted as confirmation of carer status. The following supporting documentation may normally be regarded as acceptable confirmation of the student’s status as a carer:

  • A doctor’s letter confirming the responsibility of caring for a close friend, relative or neighbour and any perceived impact on the student. (All campuses)
  • A local authority carers’ assessment (Scottish campuses)
  • A voluntary organisation assessment (All campuses)
  • A Young Carers Statement as per the Carers (Scotland) Act 2016 (Scottish campuses)
  • A Young Carers Authorisation Card/Carers Authorisation Card (Scottish campuses).
  • A letter from a local carers centre or young carers project. (All campuses)
  • Receipt of Carers Allowance (part-time students only) (Scottish campuses).
  • Any other reasonable evidence (All campuses).

The University may request further information or evidence to confirm caring status or any changes to the student carer’s responsibility.

If you are a carer at the time of your application to the University, please let us know by contacting Pat Reid, Colleges and Wider Access Officer, . This will allow us to consider your application for a contextual offer as outlined in our Contextual Admissions Policy.

You will be asked if you have caring responsibilities when you enrol online shortly before you start at Heriot-Watt. Again, please let us know so we can help you access appropriate advice and support.

Carers may choose not to disclose this information at the admissions or enrolment stage, or their caring responsibilities may lead them to disclose this information at a later stage. This could be due to the carers taking on new caring responsibilities while at university or existing caring responsibilities may require a greater commitment of time and effort. It is the responsibility of the carers to provide appropriate confirmation of their carer status in good time where possible.

Students with parental responsibilities

Ordinarily, the definition of student carers (above) does not include parents and carers of children, the exception being where a child has particular care needs resulting from a disability. Students who are parents and carers of children can be supported through the Childcare Fund or the Hardship Fund. As in the case of carers they can be given appropriate consideration for mitigating circumstances requests and in relation to absences.

The Heriot-Watt Student Parents and Carers Circle

Students at Edinburgh campus who carry these extra responsibilities are welcome to join the Parents and Carers Circle which helps keep members aware of sources of help and advice. You do not have to be registered as a carer to join. If you are happy to be included, contact Ailie at introduce yourself and she will get back to you; that is all you have to do. Every semester we have a small get-together with refreshments on offer. Being part of the circle also means you will get occasional emails from the advice hub alerting you on university processes such as Mitigating Circumstances, Academic appeals and a range of potentially relevant information.


You can also choose to be part of the closed parents and carers Facebook group where you can take part in discussion threads and make contact with other students.