Student and Child
Graduating with a child in tow
Caring for a child while taking a degree is a challenge, but it can also be a great motivator. In fact, many couples now decide to start a family before they graduate, and LMU does much to make life easier for students with children.
About 2,000 students at LMU have children to look after. “But each one’s situation is unique,” says Dr. Hildegard Adam, Head of the Student and Child section in the Central Student Advisory Office. “For many of them the double burden is a source of anxiety that may sometimes become more akin to panic. But we also have couples who come by in search of information, regarding leaves of absence, financial matters and LMU services – before deciding to have a child.” Young couples generally are increasingly willing to make the conscious commitment to a long-term partnership, a stable relationship and early marriage, and this pattern also holds for university students. “There does seem to be a growing desire for family life.” Indeed, students now often consciously decide to combine the two, taking a degree course and bringing up a child at the same time. “They wish to have children while they are young – and see their spell at university as a better time in which to raise a child than later, after they have embarked on a full-time career.” And women who already have a primary degree often return to university to do a Master’s course when they have started a family.
First-hand knowledge, qualified advice
Four female students work side by side with Dr. Adam in the Student and Child Office at Ludwigstraße 27, and another half-time position has just been approved, funded from resources provided for Lehre@LMU. The team holds a series of afternoon information sessions at the beginning of each lecture term, and similar meetings, though a smaller scale, are scheduled during the semester. All of the student staff-members themselves have children. So they have first-hand knowledge of the problems faced by students who are also parents, and can offer qualified advice to callers who contact them on the Student and Child hotline. They also respond to inquiries submitted by e-mail. Furthermore, an online forum is now available, which can be accessed with one’s personal campus identifier, where students with children can report on their experiences, exchange views and pick up tips and information from the LMU team. If necessary, face-to-face meetings can also be arranged.
Parenting students also have access via a dedicated code to the Parent-and-Child room (A 027) in the Main Building. The facility has just been reopened after extensive renovation, and now greets visitors in welcoming tones of orange. Here one can find bottle-heaters, a sofa, toys and even a buggy. Apart from the the approximately 30 nappy-changing stations and nursing areas on campus, the Parent-and-Child room is the only resource of its kind at the University. However, students with children can also get together and become acquainted on other occasions, such as the Family Breakfasts for mothers and fathers in the Mensa cafeteria.
Don’t wait too long!
In Bavaria, students with children can apply for a leave of absence of up to six semesters. And unlike those on leaves granted on other grounds, one is still free to attend seminars and practicals or even take exams. – And such classes are not added to one’s official semester count. However, Dr. Adam recommends that young mothers, in particular, should not delay their return to regular studies for too long after having given birth – even if one only comes back for one or two courses to begin with. “Otherwise there is a risk of hesitating for so long that one develops an aversion to returning to university at all,” she says.
In the past, many degree courses in the Humanities offered quite flexible conditions that made it relatively easy to reconcile the demands of raising a family with those of taking a degree. However, since the implementation of the Bologna Process, this no longer holds to the same extent. “If a child happens to fall ill shortly before an exam,” says Dr. Adam, “the student can no longer make the necessary arrangements directly with the examiner concerned, but must apply to the Examinations Office. The legal framework is more restrictive than it used to be.” And in the summer dates for the completion and submission of home assignments often coincide with periods in which many crèches are closed for the holidays.
LMU offers special workshops for parents, which are designed to help them to meet the demands of their everyday round between cradle and campus by teaching them basic skills in time management and the effective organization of their academic work schedules. A one-day workshop in September, “Erst Studium mit Kind – dann Karriere mit Familie?”, provides coaching in career planning for those who have become parents as students and will later face the task of pursuing a career with a family to look after. And a new mentoring program called tandemPLUS will specifically address the needs of students who must shoulder family responsibilities. Based on an idea proposed by LMU’s Women’s Representative Dr. Margit Weber, tandemPLUS will get underway next term, initially as a pilot project. The idea behind the project is that students who are pregnant, and those who must care for children or aged or disabled relatives should be able to call on the specialist expertise and organizational support of more experienced students of their own subject.