Think-tank finds part-time work at university increases inequality

One of our writers discusses the inequalities that working alongside university brings.

Thomas Atkinson
22nd October 2023
A study by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), has found that 55% of students are now doing paid work in some form, an increase of 10% from the previous year.

The research also found that 48% of the 140 uni websites who are members of Universities UK now promote part-time work and many hosting jobs fairs, including Newcastle University, who held theirs on the 3rd and 4th October in partnership with NUSU.

48% of the 140 uni websites who are members of Universities UK now promote part-time work

Josh Freeman, policy manager at HEPI said "While some students have lots of funding options, others must work upwards of 20 or 30 hours a week to fund their cost of studying.”

"The problem risks exacerbating inequalities between those who don't have to work, and those who can't study without it."

"And it's not just students' studies that are affected. When money is tight, extracurricular and social activities are the first things that students give up," he said.

"It's so much harder to feel part of a community when you're spending hours and hours a week off-campus. These students may already have given up on getting a rich student experience."

Freeman went on to say that many universities have undergone a “sea change in attitudes” as they now encourage part-time work.

Additionally, “Employers like the skills part-time work offers and it can often help people decide about what future career they might enjoy or be good at.

"The money can also help not just with living costs but also allow students to experience a fuller social life while at university.

"The general advice from universities, however, is that students who do part-time work shouldn't do more than 15-20 hours per week to prevent it affecting their studies."

However, a recent survey from the National Union of Students has found that of students who do part-time work, 18% do more than 20 hours.

Furthermore, student workers are being paid less too. The National Minimum Wage for 18–20-year-olds is £7.49 per hour, while mature students or postgrads are earning almost £3 more at £10.42 per hour.

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