Paid work damaging to studies, report says

May 23, 2003

Students are working longer hours during term time than ever before and it is adversely affecting their studies. Moreover, under-represented groups are disproportionately affected, a study says.

John Brennan and Brenda Little of the Open University's Centre for Higher Education Research and Information questioned 1,500 students at seven universities for the study, which is funded by Universities UK and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

They found that at some institutions more than 40 per cent of students were working in excess of 15 hours a week. On average, working hours had risen from nine to 13 hours a week for final-year full-time undergraduates.

The study, presented to a seminar organised by the Economic and Social Research Council and the Society for Research into Higher Education, found that term-time work interfered with the acquisition of academic knowledge and skills.

Dr Little told delegates that 42 per cent of students who were working during term time missed lectures, 35 per cent missed seminars and tutorials and 36 per cent had difficulties accessing library or computer facilities due to work.

More than 80 per cent reported spending less time reading and studying independently, with 35 per cent saying that they spent a lot less time on these activities.

She said: "Those working in term time were more likely to be non-white, from the lower social classes, living with parents or a partner, and studying social sciences, media studies, education or leisure. In the final year, 65 per cent of full-time undergraduates were working up to 15 hours a week. But 16 per cent were working more than 20 hours a week."

Older students were more likely to work long hours, as were those living with a partner and/or dependent children. "Some per cent were working long hours, compared with 14 per cent of younger students," Dr Little said.

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