Students with caring responsibilities

Are you a student carer?

Heriot-Watt is committed to giving access and opportunities to student carers and we recognise carers as one of our widening participation (WP) student groups.

We use the definition of carer developed by the Carers Trust, which is:

'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.'

Please note this definition does not apply where a student has a work placement or paid employment as a carer.

If you are thinking about coming to university find out how we can help you.

Going Higher for Student Carers

The University received the Going Higher for Student Carers Recognition Award in March 2020 from Carers Trust Scotland. The award recognises our commitment and success in how we identify, support, and celebrate our students with caring responsibilities from the pre-enrolment stages of their student journey all the way to graduation. 

How Heriot-Watt can support student carers

Get Ready for Success at HWU

Student Carers can register for our three day Get Ready for Success 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.

Get Ready for Success 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 are an enrolled student with caring responsibilities and would like to access support please contact:

Edinburgh campus
Emma Smail, Student Wellbeing and Transition Advisor,

Scottish Borders campus
Gillian McLaughlin, Student 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.

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.