Students behind bars

December 4, 1998

Students in 1998 are working too hard in order to make ends meet - and, when they get around to relaxing, are likely to prefer the less demanding end of popular culture to the high-minded stuff their teachers have heard of.

The THES/MORI poll of 599 undergraduates, carried out at the start of this term, shows that the vast majority of students are happy being at college and with the course and university they chose. Among the non-first years interviewed, 82 per cent would take the same course if they had their time again, 78 per cent would go to the same university, and only 6 per cent would go into full-time employment rather than college. Most say that enhanced job prospects are their main reason for being there.

The survey - details of which are in this week's THES supplement "Your Students" - shows that students are willing to make sacrifices for the advantages they think university will bring. Three-quarters of non-first years have cut back on buying clothes, shoes or food. In addition, almost a quarter have cut back on book-buying. Others leave the heating off in winter and do not have a phone that can make outgoing calls.

The survey shows that 40 per cent of students work in term-time. Some 30 per cent of these work more than the 15 hours a week recommended as a maximum in guidelines issued to students.

Term-time work sends students to bars rather than keeping them away from them: bar work is carried out by 23 per cent of working students, making it the biggest single form of student work. Waiting and waitressing and shop work are the next favourites.

The survey shows that students are unadventurous about the term-time work they do, but like to think they are ready for anything. Taking part in medical trials, nude modelling or working as a bouncer are all things students say they might consider, but few have tried. Only 5 per cent would consider doing anything illegal, mostly selling soft drugs, and only one person had worked as a prostitute.

After all this hard work, students prefer to relax in front of the TV with such fare as The Simpsons, Friends and EastEnders. Among more high-minded viewing material, only Equinox and Newsnight register in the survey. Perhaps as a result, students' idea of the person who best represents British youth is a tie between presenter Zoe Ball and singer Robbie Williams. They come in at 12 per cent each.

Despite this apparent lack of seriousness, students asked for a single piece of advice for people starting university went for "work hard" in 20 per cent of cases, making this the most popular response. Eighteen per cent went for "enjoy yourself" and 1 per cent for "don't buy too many books".

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