The latest annual survey indicates a growing trend of university students engaging in paid employment alongside their studies. The research reveals that 55% of students are currently working paid jobs, an increase from 45% reported in the previous year.
The Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) conducted a survey with over 10,000 students, revealing that 76% of them believe the cost of living has adversely affected their studies. These findings are part of a comprehensive snapshot capturing the experiences of being a university student in the UK.
Co-authored by Advance HE, the survey of full-time undergraduates stands as the largest dataset on student experience in the UK. It is weighted to provide a representative sample of the university population.
Key findings from the survey include a higher proportion of students engaged in paid work (55%) compared to those who are not (45%), with an average weekly working time of 13.5 hours for students in paid employment. Additionally, 76% of all respondents reported a negative impact on their studies due to the cost of living.
Clarissa Struthers, a 26-year-old second-year student at the University of Hertfordshire studying social work, manages three jobs to sustain herself financially.
Balancing her academic commitments, Clarissa Struthers undertakes various paid roles as a nanny, teaching assistant, and children’s home support worker. Frequently working up to four days per week, she manages her schedule to accommodate both lectures and employment.
Clarissa Struthers acknowledges that her work schedule impacts her grades as she often feels fatigued from balancing it with lectures. To reduce expenses, she resides with her family in east London.
Striving to minimize costs, she has made significant cutbacks, even in terms of food choices. Reflecting on her situation, she expresses sadness but recognizes it as the harsh reality she faces.
To assist students with living expenses during their university years, they are eligible to receive a means-tested maintenance loan. The specific amount granted varies based on the income of the student’s family household.
The maintenance loans provided to students are distinct from tuition fees, as the latter covers the expenses associated with the course itself. Maintenance loans are specifically designated for covering costs related to accommodation, food, books, and any other necessary equipment required by students.
In light of the significant inflation witnessed in the past year, the Hepi report calls upon the government to conduct a thorough review of the maintenance loans system. The report emphasizes the necessity for timely increases in loan amounts, ensuring they are aligned with inflation rates.
According to a survey conducted by Save the Student in September of last year, students’ living costs experienced a 14% increase over a 12-month period. However, maintenance loans are not seeing comparable increases in their amounts.
For the academic year 2023-24, maintenance loans in England are set to increase by 2.8%. In Wales, the increase will be 9.4%, while in Northern Ireland, it will be as high as 40%. However, it is important to note that overall support for living costs in Northern Ireland still remains lower compared to other regions in the UK.
Eligible students in Scotland will have the opportunity to borrow an additional £900 through maintenance loans. Universities UK, representing 140 universities across the UK, stated that universities are contributing by increasing hardship funding, providing subsidized or free food on campus, and enhancing other forms of pastoral support.
However, there are limitations to what universities can do without government intervention. The Department for Education has announced an additional £15 million in funding for disadvantaged students, bringing the total to £276 million for the current academic year.
Source : bbc.com