Recently, the situation of caregiver students has been in the news, thanks to the story of Erika Borellini.
Erika Borellini is a student of electronic engineering at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia. She graduated from the three-year degree course with 84/110, but was not admitted to the master’s degree course at the same university. This was due to her average grade, which did not exceed the threshold of 85/110.
However, she was ‘lucky’, her case made a lot of noise and the Rector of her University granted her admission. This allowed her to win her battle.
But who is a caregiver students?
A caregiver, literally “one who takes care of a sick person”, is a family member who takes care of a sick relative. The caregiver is defined as such by a legal procedure, appointed directly by the patient or by a guardian if he or she is incapacitated. According to some data, the number of caregivers in Italy is around 17% of the population (ISTAT data).
We feel particularly touched by the situation that this girl has had the merit of bringing to the headlines. She did not manage to get a high enough grade to get into the master’s degree course. It was not because she did not have the ability or the desire, but because she took her mother’s situation to heart and decided to put a priority on her studies, which I think we all agree is more important: it is the moral duty of a person to look after a sick family member.
Therefore, we want to make it possible for a student who takes care of a sick family member to have the possibility to have some facilities at university, adding “a new category of exemption, called “caregiver”, for students who take care of a sick family member on a daily basis and can produce documentation of appointment as “caregiver” by the competent bodies”.
A few final considerations
For example, given the huge expenses that a seriously ill person is likely to have to bear, we would not want them to be excluded from university because they are unable to meet the student contribution, and consequently “that this new figure should have 100% exemption, since they are already subject to very high expenses”.
Similarly, given that a carer may have time requirements that may not always be compatible with those of the university, we would like “the student carer to have a flexible study plan, being able to extend his or her degree course up to a maximum of twice the legal duration’ and ‘to have the possibility of taking exams on a date other than the scheduled dates, subject to agreement with the individual lecturer”.
Another major problem to consider when talking about caregivers is the possibility that one might suddenly (due to the death of the sick person) lapse from this position, so one has to allow for an interval between the lapse in function and the actual return to full-time university, since it is not certain that the carer will be able to resume the pace required by our universities from one moment to the next, “that, assuming that the time needed to obtain a degree is doubled, the committee assessing admission to master’s degrees and postgraduate courses will take into account the increase in time for the minimum score required for access to them”.
Lastly, we call for ‘allowing caregiver students who apply to be transferred to another location because of family reunification with the care recipient’.
This is why we submitted a proposal, which was approved in the form of a motion through our advisors in the National Council of University Students (CNSU) (the underlined texts are taken from the motion).
However, we note that some universities have already started to move in this direction. This situation can still be improved by a more targeted approach to understanding the problems of this category.