Part-time working 'can harm studies'

January 23, 1998

STUDENTS' academic work may suffer if their part-time jobs take up more than ten hours a week, Paisley University research suggests.

Jim McKechnie, senior lecturer in psychology, has surveyed more than 3,000 students and found they work an average of 14.3 hours a week. More than 10 per cent work for more than 20 hours.

"The majority, 58 per cent, said work was detracting from their ability to study, and a third said they had missed classes at some time because of their employment commitments," Dr McKechnie said.

"What seems to be emerging is that there was an impact for those working more than ten hours a week. It suggests that a small amount of work may not necessarily be harmful in itself."

His study of 2,600 second to fourth-year students at the beginning of session 1996-97 showed that 45 per cent of them already had part-time jobs at the start of term.

Further surveys of 800 students, including first years, in the course of the session revealed that the percentage working part-time had leapt to 59 per cent.

The average hourly rate was Pounds 3.72, and the majority of students worked in shops. Only a tiny number were in jobs directly relevant to their courses, such as social work students caring for the elderly.

But Dr McKechnie found that despite this, a fifth of the students said part-time work actually helped their academic studies.

"We need to look more closely at the difference between those saying it has a positive effect and those saying it has a negative effect. Is it because they're controlling the amount of time they're working? Is it because it's degree related? Do they see the value of the notion of developing transferable skills?" he said.

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