Smiling young student

Studying when you have caring responsibilities

How to balance study and personal growth when you're a primary carer

Having caring responsibilities doesn't mean that uni is out of reach for you — we offer plenty of support, guidance and flexibility, so you can succeed in your studies while providing care for someone.

According to the 2011 census, there are over 6.5 million carers in the UK and around 375,000 of them are young carers between 16 and 25 years old. There are many benefits of studying as a carer — and earning a degree while caring for someone can be a really rewarding opportunity.

As part of your studies you'll develop new skills and knowledge, meet new people, gain a fresh perspective on new topics, and have the opportunity to work towards a qualification that could prepare you for a career in another field in the future. 

Getting support as a student with caring responsibilities

To find out how to get support, contact us by email at or by phone on +44 (0)23 9284 3014.

We'll only use this information to give you the support you need – it won't affect how we assess your university application.

Who is considered a carer?

A carer is anyone who cares, paid or unpaid, for a friend or family member who due to illness, disability, mental health condition or addiction cannot cope without their support (Care's Trust, 2017).

The care you provide may be short-term, like supporting someone's recovery after an injury or accident, or long-term like supporting a person with a disability, illness or other ongoing condition. This title doesn't include a parent caring for their child unless they have a learning difference, mental health condition or physical disability.

A government-recognised carer is a person who cares for someone for at least 35 hours a week and is eligible for or receives Carer's Allowance or Carer's Credit.

If you're receiving Carer's Allowance you can only study up to 21 hours a week including classes, lectures, tutorials, seminars and the independent study expected by the university. If you study more than this it may impact your eligibility for Carer's Allowance. You may want to consider studying a course part-time or online by distance learning.

If you have questions about receiving a carer payment and studying you can find out more on the government website or contact our Student Finance Centre for more information.

Support available to you

It's up to you when – and if – you tell us about your caring responsibilities. Whenever you feel comfortable you can talk to us about your situation, and we can start offering you the support you need.

Financial support

Balancing your budget while studying can be tricky for most students. Studying when you have caring responsibilities means you may have a few more things to juggle than others.

We can give you financial guidance and support to help you manage your money. Our Student Finance Centre can give you guidance on loans and bursaries like the Young Carer's Bursary, support with funding applications and government benefits as well as help with your personal personal money management.

Young Carers Bursary – £500 a year

You could get this bursary of £500 a year if all the following apply:

  • you’re a full-time undergraduate UK student aged under 25
  • you have caring responsibilities for a parent or family member (but not a dependent child)
  • your family income is less than £25,000 a year

You won't be able to get this bursary alongside the Care Leavers Bursary or the Stand Alone Bursary, but you can also receive the University Bursary.

Contact our Student Finance Centre by email at or by phone on +44 (0)23 9284 3014 to apply for this bursary.

Academic support

If you're caring you might run on a different timetable or study load so you can still meet your caring responsibilities.

If you choose to tell you your lecturers or personal tutor that you're a carer, they can offer you more flexibility so you can stay on top of everything such as directed you to resources online if you have to miss a class, or negotiating deadlines on your assessments. They can also signpost you to dedicated services to make sure you're supported in the best way possible.

At Portsmouth, our learning support tutors can help with your coursework, managing your workload and other study skills that will be helpful.

Personal support

Managing your caring responsibilities and coursework might mean you have less time to catch up with friends, chill out or exercise. But keeping happy and healthy is important to staying on top of everything.

When you start uni you'll be paired up with a personal tutor who can offer guidance and support every step of the way. You can also access other health and wellbeing support such as 1-to-1 sessions with counsellors and workshops to help you manage your emotions.

External support

Sometimes you might look to charity and non-profit organisations for some help.

That support might look like speaking with someone about challenges you face, help organising alternative care or group social activities for carers. Helpful organisations you can contact include:

  • Carer's Trust – all kinds of support for unpaid carers
  • Hope Support Services – dedicated support for young carers aged 11–25
  • Carers UK – a nationwide charity and campaign group that offers support and assistance for all carers

Applying to university as a carer

You could tell us about your caring responsibilities in your personal statement, or give us a call after you apply.

It's your choice whether you want to tell us about your caring responsibilities when you apply — but if you do it can help us make sure we've got all the support in place you need to start your studies.

During your application you can highlight how being a carer has helped you develop valuable skills, or how being a carer makes you a great fit for your course, which will help us better understand your story and your potential to succeed.

Things to consider before applying

When you're thinking about studying with us there are a few important things to consider:

  • Will you need to organise alternative care for some classes? Do you know who might be able to? Or would you need to contact a local trust?
  • Will your budget change if you decide to start studying? What impact will this have?
  • Will you need to travel for class? How will you get there?
  • Will you be travelling to uni? If so, how will you get there? What will this mean for your caring responsibilities?

Making the most of your studies

Studying with caring responsibilities means you may have some additional things to consider during your degree.  Explore our advice to prepare for your degree and find out what support is available before you get here. Everyone's studies are different, but we're here to help you throughout the process.

Health and wellbeing

Discover the health and wellbeing services you can access when you study with us.

Students getting health and wellbeing support
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Learning and academic support

Everyone needs a little help with their studies from time to time. Find out what learning and academic support you get when you study here.

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Finance and money support

We'll give you advice and guidance on money-related issues — speak to us about how to fund your studies, how to manage your money, or how to apply for Student Finance.

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