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Students having to take care of children and/or relatives

Due to individual biographies, students often have to take care of a child. The 19th social survey of the German National Association for Student Affairs of 2009 has shown that 5% of the students in first degree courses have at least one child. As a matter of fact, child-rearing tasks continue to be executed mostly by women (19. Sozialerhebung des Deutschen Studentenwerks - DSW).

As a consequence of the demographic development, an increasing number of students will also be in charge of taking care of adults – e.g. partners or parents. The following trend can be derived from the few data available: students with a migration background/experience or from non-academic households are more frequently faced with family care tasks as they often continue to live with their parents and are thus involved in the care e.g. of their parents. In contrast to childcare, students having to care for their partners or parents obviously do not talk about this matter but find solutions themselves without talking about it. As a consequence, they are frequently unaware of the advice and counseling services offered.

Experience has shown that taking care of children or ill relatives is influenced by numerous aspects and can hardly be structured predictably.

The following measures help you to support and integrate students affected by this issue

  • Motivate the students to contact the Family Support Center of Freie Universität Berlin with regard to all family matters;
  • Give students some certainty with regard to the course of their studies. Discuss with the students how to handle the obligation to attend or how they can render substitute performance. Try to find flexible solutions adapted to the individual situation together with the student, if possible;
  • Inform the students about the option of a leave or even a semester-long leave. Applications for a semester-long leave must be submitted to the Student Records and Registration Office. The reasons may be pregnancy, childcare during the first three years and caring for an adult who is close to the student. In case of maternity leave or leave due to childcare up to the age of three, the upper limit of semester-long leaves is extended, i.e. the number of semester-long leaves may exceed half of the standard period of study. (See Section14 of the “Satzung für Studienangelegenheiten der Freien Universität Berlin“);
  • Inform the students about the exception provided for by Freie Universität Berlin with regard to attending a class in spite of a semester-long leave. Effective as of the summer semester 2009, students who are on maternity leave and those who have taken a leave of absence for child-rearing or caring for adults who are close to them are also permitted to attend classes during a semester-long leave and can earn credits for academic work during this time. In these cases, students may enroll via the Campus Management system. (See Section 14 of the “Satzung für Studienangelegenheiten der Freien Universität Berlin“);
  • Spread the information that the students affected may enroll for classes with a limited number of attendants or internships in the Student Records and Registration Office / Examinations Office on a preferred basis, i.e. prior to the official opening by Campus Management. If this is not possible, e.g. because the students were not aware of this fact, they may ask you as a teacher directly whether you admit an additional student to the class;
  • Allow for flexible rules of attendance, if possible. Any possible deviations from the obligation to attend 85% of all classes, which is applicable to all degree courses and degrees, are laid down in the Study and Examination Regulations. In exceptional cases and if possible, the required attendance of classes may be replaced by alternative achievements such as additional presentations or seminar papers, essays, etc. For this purpose, it is necessary that the persons affected contact their teachers in order to find a solution together with them. If students cannot attend due to the illness of a child, evidence should be provided by a medical certificate. (See Section13 (4a) of the “Satzung für Allgemeine Prüfungsangelegenheiten der Freien Universität Berlin“);
  • Tell students to contact the Student Records and Registration Office if their schedule includes overlapping classes that are relevant for examination. The departments of Freie Universität Berlin have undertaken to schedule classes that are relevant for examinations in such a way that attendance is possible even for students who have to take care of children or relatives. This means that parallel classes should be offered at various times. (See e.g. Section 6 of the “Frauenförderrichtlinien der Freien Universität Berlin”);
  • Support the students by offering e-learning. According to the objectives agreed for the “audit familiengerechte hochschule 2010” (family-friendly higher education audit), the e-learning platform must be enhanced in order to improve the studying conditions for students rearing a child by increasing flexibility. (See objectives agreed for “audit familiengerechte hochschule 2010”);
  • Inform students about the parent-child-room in the Rost- and Silberlaube. This room is available to all members of Freie Universität Berlin who want to rear their own or other people’s children on site. It is located in the “Foyer Mensa II” between the canteen’s main entrance and the bulletin board, entrance in front of the “Infobox”;
  • Inform students about the breastfeeding and diaper changing room in the foyer of the Department of Political and Social Sciences (Ihnestrasse 21);
  • Inform students about support options offered by FU Berlin and other providers.

We would like to thank Sabrina Kusch, Family Support Center of Freie Universität Berlin, for advice and information provided during the preparation of these recommendations.