Graduate Blog

The Importance of Part-Time Employment While Studying at University

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Part-time work, in my opinion, is a vital part of the university experience for three reasons: providing independence, an income of your own, and experience for the future. These are all explored in more detail below, and should be considered interdependent of one another, as the most significant benefits are the ones that arise as a combination of these aspects of working.

1)      Independence:

University offers the first chance for many young adults to live away from home without the perceived constraints of parental control; an independence that is generally hailed by students. The opportunity to live in halls and houses with very few restrictions, and the freedom that comes with these opportunities, often amount to what are considered the best three years of your life – a chance to ‘cut loose’ and enjoy yourself while preparing for the somewhat foreign world of full-time employment. Why, then, when enjoying this newfound liberty, should any student want to rely on financial support from their parents? After eighteen years of living at home, does anything really change if your independence is dependent on the benevolence of your parents? It is evident that many of the individuals enrolling in higher education have parents able to support them, but does this very support not limit the sought-after freedom so commonly associated with university? Is the experience of living independently, but relying on others, whether it is your parents or the government, to support you, beneficial at all? Part-time work enables you to provide for yourself, a good precursor to the post-university world in which fiscal support from the government and, in all likelihood, parents will dwindle. University is supposed to be a time of preparation for the future, a time to gain life experience and perfect the art of self-dependence, and providing your own income will be a massive step in learning the true value of money when you live away from home. The money earned is another extremely important aspect of part-time work, something that should provide a more immediate motive for students.

2)      Income:

The stereotype of students living precariously close to the poverty line is one hard to escape. Having to carefully juggle the small amount of money you have becomes even more of a challenge if you move into a house, as bills, internet connection, television licenses and other living expenses rear their ugly heads and demand what little money you have left after paying rent. Although the vast majority of students receive support from the government in the form of maintenance loans and grants, sometimes up to £5,500 a year in loans and £3354 in grants,[1] rarely is enough provided to sustain you for the entire term alongside the expenditures of living independently. Even if it is, this reliance on government subsidies to survive limits your freedom in all the ways discussed above. Employment provides that boost your bank account will so desperately need at the end of every month, and, more importantly, allows you to indulge in your vice without compromising your ability to eat for the week. Whether it is drinking, smoking, books, shoes, expensive food, going out – whatever you enjoy – working makes it possible to pursue your leisure interests. Additionally, an independent income will provide invaluable experience in understanding the value of money, an understanding almost inaccessible to those living off bursaries and parental support. The immediacy of the benefit of part-time work is evident in that you will be getting paid, and yet the long-term effects will be helping you when your university career has finished.

3)      Experience:

Although the (ridiculous) rise in tuition fees saw enrolment in higher education decrease 6% in 2012/13 from 2011/12,[2] it must be remembered that, according to the Guardian – citing the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills as their source – almost 50% (49.3% to be precise) of students in England entered higher education in 2011/12.[3] Therefore, enrolment in higher education was still at approximately 44% for the 2012/13 year. When this is considered it becomes fairly evident that simply attaining an undergraduate degree does not distinguish you from the thousands of other individuals who will be in the job market, especially when you consider that you will not only be competing against every person in the country graduating from your year, but the years preceding and following you. Furthermore by going to university you are potentially missing out on three years of work experience, experience utilised by other potential candidates… IF you do not get a job. In the best case scenario, you will be able to get work experience relating to your desired field and massively improve your post-university employment prospects. However, even if you are unsure what career path to head down, or are just at university for the experience, working while you are studying shows determination and a hard-working ethic to any potential future employer.

Even if you can financially afford to not have to work, can you really afford it in terms of the experience you are missing out on? Is not working at the weekend really worth the avoidable restrictions it brings? Consequently, getting a part-time job is essential to being able to reap the maximum benefit from university life, whether it is leisure and enjoyment, rescuing your bank balance or improving your employability.

 

[1] Student finance, 2. Loans and grants, https://www.gov.uk/student-finance/loans-and-grants, Accessed 06/08/14

[2] HESA SFR 197, Key Points – enrolments (all UK HEIs), in ‘Higher Education Student Enrolments and Qualifications Obtained at Higher Education Institutions in the United Kingdom for the Academic Year 2012/13’, https://www.hesa.ac.uk/sfr197, Accessed 06/08/14

[3] R. Adams, Number of students going on to higher education almost reaches 50%, http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/apr/24/students-higher-education-almost-50-per-cent, Accessed 06/08/14

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