Parents pay, but it is not enough

July 12, 2002

The high cost of university life throughout the world is pushing more students into term-time jobs. The THES reports on some enterprising ways to raise cash.

One in ten French students has a full-time job, and half do some kind of paid work. But parents contribute most towards financing undergraduate studies.

Students are spared high charges for their university courses - enrolment fees are nominal - and, unlike their British counterparts, they usually attend an institution close to home. More than a third of people under 26 live with their parents.

Following rapid university expansion during the 1990s, more than 60 per cent of school-leavers are entitled to a place in higher education. In 2000-01, 1.4 million were enrolled in universities.

The greater intake has led to an increase in the number of students from poor backgrounds. Nearly a third receive means-tested grants (compared with barely a tenth during the 1980s), and some bright but poor students receive merit scholarships, while campus facilities such as canteens and housing are more generously subsidised and more widely available.

But for many students, parental support is not enough, and more and more are taking jobs to finance their studies. According to OVE (Observatoire de la Vie Etudiante), which has carried out surveys into the circumstances of a random ,000 students every three years since 1994, about 50 per cent of those questioned in 2000 were in paid employment, compared with 40 per cent in 1997.

The OVE found that about 10 per cent of students worked full time, compared with 5.8 per cent three years earlier, while 9 per cent worked part time, up from 6.6 per cent. Some 56 per cent had occasional work or did frequent but not demanding jobs, such as babysitting. Female students were three times more likely to do such tasks. Language and maths students were two to three times more likely to have tutoring jobs than law or economics students.

Students who were eligible for state grants were less likely to work than those who were not. Apart from having a regular, if minimal, income, they risked losing benefits if they earned too much.

Students undertaking occasional paid employment had the same chance of successfully completing their degrees as those who did not have jobs. But for those who worked for six months or more a year, the likelihood of academic success fell by 29 per cent.

The number of students in severe poverty is relatively low. A report published in 2000 estimated that they numbered about 23,000 - 1.3 per cent.


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