Dundalk Institute of Technology, Ireland

‘We must not forget that the poorest students in our society are often those studying without the emotional or financial support of their family.’

(New Starts: The challenges of HE without the support of a family network 2015, p.26)

The last few weeks have flown past with travel to the UK and Ireland as well as planning for the upcoming [November] First-in-Family Forum.

During April, I presented to the Dundalk Institute of Technology on First-in-Family students and was interested to hear about the particular issues of young Irish school leaver students who are first in their families and communities to attend university. The Dundalk Institute has a very high proportion of students who are first in their family and community to attend university – the session productively discussed some of the ways this Institute is engaging with both learners and parents in this space including increasing their presence in local schools and creating ‘safe’ opportunities for families to come on campus.

I also presented at the ‘Rethinking Family in Relationship to Higher Education’ Forum at the Society of Research on Higher Education (SRHE) and was interested to hear a range of speakers reflect upon the complexities of family and university participation. The papers included research on the importance of ‘family’ for students with dyslexia presented by Angela Murphy and two different studies of the university experience of care givers presented by Dr Marie-Pierre Moreau and Sam Dent.

Presentations can all be downloaded here.

The day also included a presentation from Becca Bland of the Stand Alone Charity who provided interesting insights into those students who are estranged from family. This prompted me to consider how those learners who have no family support networks experience their university experience within Australia? The Stand Alone organisation has conducted research in the UK that shows how estrangement impacts homelessness; finances, university choice and employability. Students’ reported feeling ‘abnormal’ or different to others, often hiding their estrangement from colleagues and peers. The full report, New Starts: The Challenges of Higher Education without the support of a family network can be accessed here.

Until the next time,



Building Knowledge

‘Students who are estranged are likely to remove themselves from a damaging situation between the ages of 16-19.’ 

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