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Open AccessArticle

‘You Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours’? Support to Academics Who Are Carers in Higher Education

School of Education and Social Care, Faculty of Health, Education, Medicine and Social Care, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge CB1 1PT, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Soc. Sci. 2019, 8(6), 164;
Received: 28 April 2019 / Revised: 14 May 2019 / Accepted: 21 May 2019 / Published: 29 May 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Family and Work: Parental Leave and Careers)
PDF [242 KB, uploaded 29 May 2019]


In recent years, it has become common for individuals to juggle employment and unpaid care work. This is just as true for the England-based academic workforce, our focus in this article. We discuss how, in the context of English Higher Education, support for carers is enacted and negotiated through policies and practices of care. Our focus on academics with a diverse range of caring responsibilities is unusual insofar as the literature on care in academia is overwhelmingly concerned with parents, usually mothers. This article is informed primarily by critical and post-structuralist feminist perspectives. We draw on a corpus of 47 interviews conducted with academics representing a broad range of caring responsibilities, subjects, and positions. A thematic analysis reveals how carers’ relationship with the provision and policies of care support at an institutional level is characterised by ambivalence. On the one hand, participants approve of societal and institutional policy support for carers. On the other hand, they are often reluctant to position themselves as the beneficiary of such policies, expressing instead a general preference for support from outside the workplace or for workplace-based inter-individual and informal care arrangements. This resistance is particularly noticeable in the case of participants with caring responsibilities other than the parenting of healthy, able-bodied children and of those whose gender, class, racial, or sexual identity do not conform with the figure of the ‘ideal academic’, contributing to their othering in the academic realm. These findings have significant implications for policies supporting carers, pointing to the need for greater visibility and recognition of caring responsibilities in academia, especially in terms of their diverse identities. View Full-Text
Keywords: carers; higher education; academics; policies carers; higher education; academics; policies
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Moreau, M.-P.; Robertson, M. ‘You Scratch My Back and I’ll Scratch Yours’? Support to Academics Who Are Carers in Higher Education. Soc. Sci. 2019, 8, 164.

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