Futuretrack Stage 3 Working Paper 3 : The impact of paid and unpaid work and of student debt on experience of higher education

Published:  November 2010; Pages: 30;  Size: 624KB

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  • Students in their third and final year of HE were more likely to have paid work that they had had in
    their first year: 47 per cent had had some paid work during term, three-quarters had done some
    paid work during vacations, and only 22 per cent had done no paid work whatsoever.
  • In most regions, between 40-50 per cent of the finalists had undertaken paid work, but students in
    Northern Ireland and Scotland were considerably more likely to have done so, whereas those in
    Wales and the East of England were least likely to have had such jobs.
  • The weekly hours of term-time working had also increased since the first year student survey.
    Women’s average hours of paid work during term had risen from eight to over 12 hours per week,
    while men’s had increased from eight and a half to 13.4.
  • The extent of participation in paid work during term was correlated with the type of HEI attended;
    those at HE colleges and low tariff universities reported longest hours of work, those at the highest
    tariff HEIs least. BUT the average hours of paid work among those in the highest tariff category
    had doubled between first and third years, from five to ten hours weekly.
  • Males worked longer hours in jobs than females; Black Caribbean were most likely to have paid
    work, followed by White students, those in the ‘other ethnic minorities and mixed’ group, Black
    African and those from an Asian Indian background were most likely to have worked very long
    24 hours. Asian Bangladeshi, Pakistani and Chinese UK students were least likely to have
    undertaken paid work during term in their final year.
  • Comparing how third year students had obtained their paid jobs, they were more likely so have
    done so via family and other networks than in their first year.
  • Growing reasons for doing paid work during term were to pay for essential living costs and leisure,
    and to get work experience of a particular industry or occupation or generally and the pattern of
    reasons for vacation work was similar: necessity and the need to get experience. It is clear that the
    message that employers look for work experience has got through.
  • The amount of voluntary or unpaid work done by finalists was less than in their first year, but
    where it had grown, it tended to be unpaid work as an intern or related to studies. The reasons
    where there had been the biggest growth were ‘experience for future career’ and ‘to learn new
  • The Futuretrack survey reinforces previous findings that participation in paid work during term is
    related to educational and socio-economic advantage and disadvantage. It is too early to
    investigate either the positive or negative impacts of paid work on academic achievement or
    opportunities, but students working long hours were more likely to be dissatisfied with various
    aspects of their courses, to predict lower grades for themselves than those who worked less, and
    to participate less in other extra-curricular activities.
  • We found evidence of both unwilling participation in paid work and frustration that paid work was
    not available in a significant minority of the cases where students did not have jobs. Job shortages
    related to particular locations or to the recession in general were commented on, as was the
    difficulty in finding work sufficiently flexible to fit with the demands of coursework.
  • Many mature students reported family and community responsibilities that precluded paid work,
    but which in themselves constituted work and caused stress alongside study requirements,
    emphasising the heterogeneity of both the student population and their support and information
  • Nearly a third (31 per cent) of the third year finalist respondents expected to have debts of over
    £20,000 on completion of their courses, and in this group, 8 per cent expected debts of over
    £25,000. Male students anticipated higher debts, on average, at the end of their course than
  • The scale of debts anticipated by these students had increased as their studies had progressed,
    leading to an increase in the average level of debt predicted and higher proportions expecting
    debts of over £20,000.
  • Those attending HEIs at the ‘higher tariff’ end of the spectrum were least likely to have been
    accruing high debts than those at the lower end. Those at the low tariff universities were most
    likely to expect to end up with debts of over £25,000, followed by those at Specialist HE colleges,
    whereas those at the highest tariff universities were half as likely do so.
  • Those with accumulated debt of £15,000 or more were more likely to predict that their future
    options would be constrained by debt. Nearly 60 per cent of those whose debt fell below the
    £15,000 level reported that their career options would not be restricted, compared to well under
    half of those whose debts already exceeded £15,000. They were more likely to say that they
    would like to do a postgraduate course, but did not wish to add to debts, or that they would have to
    settle for a less attractive job than they would prefer, in terms of career aspirations, so that they
    could pay off debts, or to have reported that the locations where they would be able to seek
    employment would be limited (mainly because of a need to return to parental homes for support
    while engaging in job-search).
  • Third year students reported an increased tendency to agree with the statement ‘I am worried
    about the prospect of having to repay loans and debts when I have completed my course’.
  • Men worried less than women about debts. This may reflect their higher expected earnings, which
    we also looked at in this chapter.
  • The average earnings expected by the Futuretrack sample of students about to graduate in
    summer 2009 was £19,665.
  • Third year finalist males, those who were studying Law or Social Studies, those attending the
    Highest tariff universities , those from Black, Asian or Mixed ethnicity backgrounds, those in older
    age groups and those who had already applied for jobs or were planning full-time postgraduate
    study had higher earnings expectations.
  • Third year finalist women, those who were studying Biology, Veterinary Sciences, Physical
    sciences, Architecture, Mass Communication, Classics, History, Creative Arts and Interdisciplinary
    subjects, those with a disability, and those who had no clear direction in mind, having not yet
    applied for jobs and planning temporary employment, had relatively lower expectations.
  • Socio-economic background had no significant impact on expected earnings, but type of HEI and
    gender did, with males at the highest tariff universities expecting an average starting salary of
    £2,000 per annum more than women from similar HEIs and £6,000 per annum more than women
    at Specialist HE colleges whose male peers expected to earn on average £1,000 more. These
    relativities, at least, are likely to be realised, on the strength of existing graduate earnings patterns.
  • There is evidence of a relationship between expected debt and expected earnings, but the picture
    is mixed, with no significant difference between those declaring that they will have no debts on
    graduation and those expecting debts of over £20,000, but those predicting debts under £20,000
    predicted somewhat lower earnings, on average.

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