MATERNITY & PATERNITY LEAVE
You are entitled to parental leave. The university’s policy document provides details of the arrangements for students who are about to have or adopt a child: how much leave students are entitled to, access to University facilities, graduate accommodation and childcare services and the provision for a flexible return to full-time study.
University scholarships should provide paid maternity and paternity leave. If you are dependent upon an external scholarship which does not provide maternity support, funding a longer period of maternity leave may be difficult.
If you find yourself in great financial need because of such a situation, you may be able to find some help through your college, department, or a university hardship fund (see ‘Money Matters’ below).
International students may experience visa difficulties if they suspend student status for maternity leave. However, the university Immigration & Visa team have a workaround in place to enable you to stay. They can also advise you about applying for child and family visas.
University Family Leave Policy
Oxford University Visa & Immigration
If you need pre-school childcare (0-4 years), one of your first priorities – as soon as you receive an offer from Oxford or have a positive pregnancy test – may be to get yourself on the waiting list for university nurseries. Some colleges (St Anne’s, Wolfson, Balliol, and Somerville) have their own nurseries, although it is likely they will have a long waiting list so the sooner you can do this the better.
The university’s Childcare Services website contains detailed and up-to-date information about university nurseries and independent nurseries with which the university co-operates. University nurseries are cheaper than others in Oxford, and stand therefore in high demand. If you are unable to secure a University nursery place, there are other arrangements available such as nannies and childminders.
University Childcare Services
Oxfordshire Family Information Service
To find a free school place for your child when you arrive, you will need to apply to Oxfordshire County Council.
If your child is starting school for the first time (age 4 or 5), you can apply online on the Oxfordshire County Council website.
If your child will be moving during the academic year, you will need to complete an in-year transfer application form. Note that you will have to include photocopies of your children’s passports and visas, if applicable. They recommend putting down at least three schools of preference – i.e. those nearest to where you live and work.
The Council’s website lists all state schools operating in Oxfordshire.
OFSTED, the body responsible for inspecting UK schools, provides details on school quality.
International students should note that many state primary schools have a Church of England foundation. However, these schools are open to and attended by children of all faiths or none. The schools respect the faith background of the children who attend. The official name for these types of schools is ‘voluntary aided’ or ‘foundation schools’. They are free to attend and run by the state.
Guidance on Starting School
In-Year Transfer Form
Your experience of student life will vary enormously according to the age of your children, whether you have a partner, or how much your partner can or will support you. But it is also about the priorities you set and the choices you make.
Here are some questions to think about:
- Do I want to rely on myself or do I want to ask for help?
- Do I want to make finding and paying for a babysitter a priority?
- How can my partner and I help the other flourish? How much me-time and us-time do we need each week, alongside work and parenting time?
- If my partner is not a student, where can we develop common relationships?
- Do I want to set aside definite time for the family in evenings and at the weekends, or just see how long my work takes?
- Do I want to have regular working hours or just see how long my work takes?
- Do I prefer to keep home life private or do I prefer to have guests?
- What is the minimum level of engagement with college life I want to achieve?
- How many weeks a year do I want to devote to time off with the family (or holiday if I can afford it)? When will I do this?
- Do I want to make time for sport (there will be teams and free facilities at college) or another hobby?
- Which people’s company does me good?
- When shall I meet with them next?
The University Graduate Accommodation Office has accommodation for families in sites across the city. In addition, your College may be able to accommodate you and your family, however resources vary between Colleges. Speak with your College accommodation officer about what is available.
Alternatively, you can rent accommodation in the private rented sector. Costs vary depending on the area and facilities. Information about renting in the private rented sector can be found in the Student Advice Service Living Out Guide and Podcast
Graduate Accommodation Office
College Accommodation Listings
Living Out Guide
Living Out Podcasts
Student parents at Oxford fund their studies in various ways, usually calling upon several sources. A 2015 survey suggested student parents often rely on a partner’s salary (50%), part-time work (40%), scholarships (45% partial, 35% full) and family support (20%). Other sources include loans, benefits, and personal savings. You could also consider the following funding avenues.
Unlike more progressive EU countries, scholarships do not offer additional stipends for dependants. British students or those with British partners on low incomes often rely on various UK benefits (Child Benefit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, etc.). Using a benefits calculator, such as one hosted by Turn2Us, can help you find out what benefits you may be eligible to apply for. Their website also hosts a grants search function and provides advice based on your situation.
International students, ineligible for UK benefits, may find themselves therefore particularly in need of help. Some colleges (Balliol and Wolfson) offer childcare bursaries. Some departments have been known to provide extra conference grants for taking a child or carer to a conference.
Some organisations provide grants for students that meet certain criteria which are often linked to the aims of the organisation. It is worth asking our Advice Team for any sources of charitable funding to explore. For example, Funds for Women Graduates (FfWG) helps women graduate students with their living expenses (not fees) in Great Britain in their final year of a DPhil. They can also provide emergency grants.
Colleges and some departments have hardship funds. British students may apply to the Access to Learning Fund. All students may apply to the University Hardship Fund.
Note that current hardship funding policy says that pregnancy is not usually considered an unforeseen circumstance. However, if you are in financial difficulty, do not be put off, but apply. In the past several student parents have been supported by their college, department, or the university in this way.
If you consider the analogy with employment law, there is a massive equality issue which needs to be addressed in this regard. Pregnancy should not be seen as a foreseen circumstance, or students expected to prove that a pregnancy was unplanned. If the university had admitted you to your course, you are considered one of the brightest and the best.
Turn2Us Benefits Calculator
Funds for Women Graduates
University and College Hardship Funding
At some of the Graduate Accommodation sites, kids whizz around on scooters and bikes and several student parents are well connected, meeting for BBQs, kids’ birthdays, and chatting day-to-day. It makes a massive difference to student well-being to be able to meet people in similar circumstances.
Join the Facebook groups of various Graduate Accommodation areas, if you live there. They are often a great chance to exchange information and baby things, and arrange social events. Baby and toddler groups run at Castle Mill (Friday mornings) and Court Place Gardens (Tuesday mornings).
Court Place Gardens
Alan Bullock Close
The University Newcomer’s Club
The club aims to help the newly-arrived wives, husbands or partners of visiting scholars, of graduate students and academics to settle in and to give them the opportunity to meet people in Oxford.
If there is an event you would like and don’t see it happening, why not put up a poster and organise a child-friendly meeting in a communal area where you live?
In reality, no-one’s student experience is plain-sailing, and some things are hard to talk about with friends. Some discover their college welfare officers, chaplains, and the university counselling service to be important resources.
OXFORD SU EVENTS
In the past, Oxford SU have organised events for student parents including picnics, tea & toy events and local playground dates. Keep track by joining the Student Parent Facebook group and visiting the Oxford SU website.
The rationale behind these events is to be a catalyst and facilitator of student parent relationships. Some student parents have great networks of support – others feel more isolated. Come to our events to contribute to the wellbeing of your student parent peers and find support where it’s needed. If you have an idea for an event or wish to host one near where you live, please get in touch with VP Women or Graduates who can help to publicise it more widely.
Student Parent Facebook group
There are lots of activities for the little ones across Oxford, both in and out of term time. Here are some websites to get you started on your search.
Oxfordshire Family Information Service
Oxford University Galleries, Libraries and Museums
Holiday playschemes (University)
Holiday playschemes (External)
We’re here to help!
Your SU’s experienced Advisors are here to help you find answers to problems you may face.
Drop in sessions are held between 1st and 8th week (inclusive) at:
10am – 4pm, Monday to Thursday
Oxford SU, 4 Worcester St, OX1 2BX
They can also be contacted by email: firstname.lastname@example.org