'A space for me, but what about my family?': the experiences of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller student carers in UK Higher Education

Christine Browne , Chelsea McDonagh *, Colin Clark

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


The diverse experiences of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students entering UK higher education institutions have received increased attention in recent years. Such work is overdue and begins to address the gaps in knowledge about how students from these communities access and experience UK higher education. What is less apparent in the existing literature is what happens outside and away from campus and classes. Some attention to the structural and cultural conditions that enable Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students to attend University in the first place is required, to ensure support is in place.

Further, what are the barriers to accessing higher education and outreach programmes designed by universities for Gypsy, Roma and Traveller students? A key aspect to this discussion regarding off-campus experience is caring responsibilities.

The three authors of this chapter come from Traveller and Gypsy backgrounds and have been through university themselves. In this chapter, we critically reflect on our own diverse experiences of negotiating the (often painful) boundaries, barriers and cultures of higher education institutions, whilst fulfilling caring responsibilities. We also consider the emotional impact of the ingrained caring responsibility culture that some Travellers may carry, as well as the weight of moving away from home to study. The proposed chapter is informed by both existing research and auto-ethnographical insights and reflections. We argue that if colleges and universities are serious about the inclusion of students from Gypsy, Roma and Traveller backgrounds, they need to be pro-active off-campus as well as on-campus. Mentors, financial support and family backing are often critical to make university ‘work’.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationStudent Carers in Higher Education
Subtitle of host publicationNavigating, Resisting, and Re-Inventing Academic Cultures
EditorsGenine Hook, Marie-Pierre Moreau, Rachel Brooks
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781003177104
ISBN (Print)9781032010946
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jun 2022

Publication series

NameRoutledge Research in Higher Education


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