July 23, 1999

It is undoubtedly true that some students do have negative experiences of work and that many find the competing demands of work and study hard to juggle ("Missing out on the experience", THES, July 16). As you point out, student employment services (SESs) such as the one I run exist to promote fair conditions and pay for students. But we cannot overlook the aspects of student working that can contribute to personal development and complement academic work. A job can be a learning experience, too, allowing students to acquire and hone skills, to become familiar with work situations and culture - in short, the whole work experience package in a part-time job.

Although about one-third of SESs are organised by student unions, the other two-thirds are split fairly evenly between university careers services and personnel departments.

Student employment is not dominated by dreary, poorly paid and academically irrelevant jobs. Most SESs focus on expanding high-end employment. And those much-maligned bar jobs can be efficient ways to pick up high-order communication and teamworking skills.

Sally Davies Student employment officer University of Bristol

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