Jobs a must for students in UK to pay bills: Study

LONDON: Students flocking to Britain from the world over to study face a stark reality that has already dawned on home students: unless they are well off, they’ll have to work to pay for their bills.

Many home students, already in debt or struggling to make both ends meet, are finding it difficult to remain in full-time studies without part-time jobs. Rising living costs and tuition fees are estimated to raise the cost of university education this academic year to around £10.8 billion: up by £500 million over last year. Even assuming all needy students find employment, their total earnings won’t cross £2 billion, according to a survey by NatWest published in The Times.

In per capita terms, such students can meet only a fifth of their expenses through jobs. Which means they need to have recourse to other funds. If they don’t smoke and go out at all, they can save up to £$1.6 billion, around 11 per cent of the total costs.

Take a look at the expense list that NatWest has drawn up: Of the £10.8 billion total expenses, almost £4 billion will go on rent and £1.2 billion on supermarket food shopping. Around £864 million will be spent on going out, £489 million on books and course materials, and £773 million on cigarettes. Fortunately, the last expense has reduced thanks to the smoking ban.

The climbing costs are influencing students in several ways. Their choice of university now depends on employment opportunities. They are ignoring university advice against taking up jobs during term times so as not to divert their attention from studies. Holidays mean being able to take up more than one job.

Mark Worthington, head of student banking at NatWest, said, “Students are increasingly aware of the wider economic climate and this is filtering down into their decisions when they are choosing their university, and also when deciding whether to take a part-time job during term time.”

Come autumn, the NatWest survey predicts, two out of every five fresh, full-time students will be looking for part-time jobs. The survey claims that 25,000 more undergraduates took up part-time jobs in term time this year than in 2007. They will join the ranks of thousands of others, at a ratio of three out of five, already in jobs.

The range of employment available is startling. While most worked as shop assistants and bartenders, other jobs included working in a care home, front of house at a theatre, on public transport, in a legal firm, for a museum, for a call centre, as a photographer, lifeguard or hairdresser, or in the Territorial Army.

Most universities are relaxed about the issue and accept that many of their students will need to work, but some try to ensure that studies do not suffer. A spokeswoman for Oxford University said, “Students are discouraged from working during term time as terms are short — eight weeks. The holiday periods are therefore long, giving many students the opportunity to take up paid work outside term time. If a student is worrying about finances, the university and colleges would prefer they came to talk about the wide range of financial support available.”

Students don’t generally take the advice. On average they spent 13.7 hours a week in paid employment, varying between 18.5 hours in Portsmouth and 9.9 in Exeter. The cities where the most students have jobs are Belfast and Dundee, with 64 per cent and 61 per cent respectively.