Students 'magnify effect of term-time paid jobs'

September 3, 2009

Students may be exaggerating the negative effects of term-time paid employment in order to avoid involvement in other activities, researchers at Edge Hill University suggest.

The debate about term-time jobs has tended to emphasise the negative impact of such work, with studies showing that paid work has an adverse effect on academic performance and restricts students' ability to take part in unpaid extra-curricular activities. However, a new study by Paul Greenbank and John Mercer, academics in Edge Hill's business school, and careers adviser Sue Hepworth, has called this into question.

The survey of 56 final-year business and management under-graduates found that students blamed term-time jobs for restricting the time available for group academic work.

But when the academics analysed the hours students worked and their involvement in group activities, they found no relationship between the two.

"An analysis of the questionnaires suggests that some students were using their term-time employment as an excuse for not engaging in group work," the authors conclude.

Failure to take part in group work was more likely to be the result of poor time-management skills and a preference for working at home rather than on campus, which meant that students left it too late to organise a time for getting together, the researchers suggest.

In a paper published in the journal Education and Training, the trio also report on a study which was sponsored by the Higher Education Careers Service Unit. Two thirds of the 30 final-year students questioned had term-time jobs, but only four said this work had limited unpaid extra-curricular activities. The researchers conclude that the negative impact of term-time jobs might not be as bad as some students claim.

While other studies have shown that jobs have a negative impact on performance, "a statistical association between the hours students work and their ability to meet the requirements of their course ... does not prove causation", they say.

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