A research study has discovered that final year undergraduates spend longer working hours in jobs during term times, affecting their university education. The latest research, by the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU), was released on 18 November. It involved tracking 50,000 students throughout their time at university.

During the final year, 78 percent of students worked at some point, which is an increase of over 10 percent from first year students working. Jane Artress, research director at HECSU, suggested that men and women worked “over 12 hours” per week on average.

84 percent said they worked to fund living expenses, 79 percent to supplement leisure activities, 66 percent to afford study materials, and 62 percent to avoid debts. Many students chose to work to attain valuable work experience. Debt was highlighted as a particular problem, which was an average of £15,700.  This was seen to limit future options resulting in quick searching for jobs over considering pursuing beneficial postgraduate study.

Artress indicated that the long hours of work “predicts lower grades”.  The research suggests that working longer hours during term time can lead to “dissatisfaction with the course as well as lower grade expectations.” Quality of course work and time studying will also be affected as students struggle to divide their time during the most important year of their degree.

Linda Buckman, Director of the Careers and Employability Centre at the University of Sussex, said: “I would argue that students undertaking paid or unpaid work are actually enhancing their university experience”, and pointed out the favourable image this will have for future employers. Linda Buckman further stated: “we are aware, as the Higher Education Careers Services Unit’s report notes, of part-time job shortages during the recession and the impact of this upon students.  At Sussex, we work hard to make sure that opportunities are available to students, and we are currently advertising 38 part-time jobs on our website.”

For some students, working is not a choice. Inês Klinesmith, a third year Media and French undergraduate who works part-time explained that “I have to work, and often I work more than I should. It does take time away from my studies but I do not have a choice. “My recent accident where I broke my right shoulder has meant that I could not work and consequently, I have had to be careful with how I spend.”

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