Maastricht University seeks to attract and retain a diverse group of employees and students. Part of this objective is recognising and facilitating the care responsibilities of UM community members, because work/study is only one aspect of their lives. That is the objective of ‘UMCares’. Within this project, UM is working towards concrete solutions which will facilitate the combination of caring tasks with work/study for every member of the UM community. This goes beyond the standard caring tasks found within the nuclear family – namely parents caring for their children – and considers instead that UM community members can have caring responsibilities for a wide range of people: children, parents, spouses, siblings, grandchildren, grandparents, close friends etc. These caring tasks may fluctuate and change over time.
The UM Cares project has benefited from the extensive experience of the German company Berufundfamilie. Since 2002, Berufundfamilie has helped over 100 German universities to identify current policies and develop and implement sustainable life-phase friendly policies, through their systematic tool ‘Familiegerechte Hochschule’ (‘family-fair university’). UM is the first university outside Germany to undergo this process, and therefore the first non-Germany university to receive the ‘family-friendly’ certificate from Berufundfamilie. The tool developed by Berufundfamilie relies on extensive input from university employees and students, in order to understand – based on individuals’ experiences – how current policies are functioning and where there is room for improvement.
With two young children in Maastricht and family members living abroad, the mission of UMCares is close to my heart. I am always keen on input and ideas from members of the UM community, so if you have something to share please get in touch!
The UM Cares project is coordinated by Natasja Reslow. She has been teaching, conducting research, and managing projects at Maastricht University since 2009, first as a Ph.D. candidate at FASoS and later as Assistant Professor at the Law Faculty. Since 1 April 2019, she is coordinating UMCares, as well as two committees on research ethics and scientific integrity.