Readers' reactions

December 11, 1998

If more universities recognised that students are working instead of brushing the reality under the carpet there might be better control of what is actually going on and more benefit for students. Some work in term-time may be beneficial. It may help students to structure their time efficiently and provide a sense of focus on studies. And what young person does not want to earn some money to have some fun, let alone to pay the bills or reduce the overdraft?

Universities could provide:

* A Job Shop, to match students to jobs appropriate in terms of hours, conditions, pay and skills

* Advice on hours of work. Academics need to think through how much paid work is appropriate for students on their sort of degree course and encourage a sensible approach to it. Research suggests that over 15 hours' employment per week is likely to be detrimental to studies. This may need to be less for students on applied science courses. Academics responsible for timetabling need to consider the structure of the week and whether blocks of free time should be available for part-time work. Some colleges operate a day-release system that allows students to work one day a week

* Help with the learning value of work experience. Some are developing modules to help students present the learning value of their term-time or vacation work to potential employers.

Karen Powell-Williams The National Centre for Work Experience

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