Subsidised creches should be available at all higher education institutions and lecture timetables juggled to help students with childcare responsibilities, a study by a Derby University academic and mother of five has concluded.
Vivienne Walkup has set an example by scheduling lectures to start later in the morning and finish earlier in the afternoon on the education studies degree course she manages at Derby - to help students who have to transport children to and from nursery.
But she said that her doctoral study revealed that many universities, including her own, were failing to provide affordable creches or to make all timetables flexible enough for students with children.
She said: "My study has identified the juggling act that students who are mothers have to perform in trying to look after their children and also look after their education.
"Universities could make life easier by starting lectures 30 minutes later in the morning to allow parents to drop off children at nursery."
One of Dr Walkup's former students, Rosemary Shepherd, has benefited from this approach.
With seven children to look after, she said it would have been impossible for her to complete her education studies degree without the flexible lecture times.
She graduated two years ago and has taken up a permanent contract as an education studies lecturer at Derby.
She said: "Dr Walkup's study is spot-on. All mothers identify with the struggles faced in returning to education but also with the benefits it brings."
Dr Walkup said the sector's attitude was reflected in the fact that no national statistics were gathered on how many students have childcare responsibilities.
"Part of the problem may be that academia has always been run by men and it remains a largely male-dominated sector," she said.