12th October 2016
Read on to discover some top tips on how students can finance their way through university.
For the 2016 intake of undergraduates, the Student Loans Company will offer a maintenance loan of somewhere between £6,904 and £10,702. This is meant to help toward bills, food and the general amenities of university life. As most of us realise this is not enough. According to the Living Wage foundation, if expressed as a per annum figure, the UK Living Wage stands at £16,302 before tax (and outside of any consideration of ‘London Weighting.’) On the face of it, the distance between the undergraduate maintenance loan and the ‘living wage’ is quite a gulf.
Making sure that students balance the pressure to survive, in an immediate financial sense, against the academic requirements of their chosen discipline; that is the task that faces educators today.
Educators have often been loathed to recommend that students seek employment alongside their studies. This is understandable, as part-time or weekend work can gradually eat into study time. During times of high demand, employers may tend to ask more of part time or weekend workers and times of high demand for non-skilled sectors, like catering, for example, tend to coincide with high demand periods of study: Christmas, Easter, etc. Young employees, often eager to please or frightened of upsetting the boss, can find themselves agreeing to do all the hours that god sends, often to the detriment of their studies.
"Paid employment doesn’t have to adversely affect the student’s performance. It can be very beneficial."
Sadly, student employment has become a necessity for most. So, education and guidance regarding sideline employment for undergraduate students, as opposed to hard-line prohibition, is the way forward. Paid employment doesn’t have to adversely affect the student’s performance. It can be very beneficial.
Despite the fact that, an undergraduate psychologist may gain little in the way of additional academic teaching, the skill-set acquired from such student employment is actually considered a real attribute to prospective employers, post-graduation. In performing a role in retail or catering, or any of the unskilled positions that offer themselves open to student applicants, young people can learn key interpersonal skills. They can learn how to work under pressure and solve, albeit often simple problems, as a team; they can fill gaps in their skill-set, gaps often not tended to by mainstream education.
Most paid work undertaken by students during the course of their studies is done on a casual basis. For a student, this can be great. Take the example of bar and restaurant work: Students can usually set out their desired hours of availability and, so long as the employer is reasonable, there will stand an agreement, for example, that ‘so and so’ cannot work on Friday between ten o’clock and five o’clock. There is no reason why, in cases such as these and in the case of bar and restaurant work which can be anti-social, that students’ studies should be adversely affected; provided that the agreement makes the appropriate allowance for study time, relaxation and fun. All should run smoothly. Even if ‘so and so’ doesn’t clock off until 1am some evenings.
Of course, any opportunity to gain experience in a field of interest should be encouraged. For most undergraduates, however, without the luxury of the ‘bank of mum and dad,’ it is most likely that large unskilled sectors like catering and the services industry will gobble them up during their studies.
To avoid the prospect of a pressurising employer, such as a restaurant chain or nightclub owner, it might be an idea to mention the university job-shop. Every university has one. It is a forum, either physically located at the university or in the ethers of the university’s intranet, which provides a facility whereby students can get ‘studenty-type’ jobs. The jobs offered are often linked to the university and provide a great way to both make a few pounds and avoid the inflexibility of employers driven solely by profit. The university keeps the student’s academic welfare in mind when thinking about hours of work and scheduling. And, the pay is comparably much better.
"Today’s reality is that students, unless the ‘bank of mum and dad’ are helping, will have to earn whilst they learn."
Today’s reality is that students, unless the ‘bank of mum and dad’ are helping, will have to earn whilst they learn. Educators should, and most do, recognise this. Before sending kids off to university, we might do well to remind ourselves that the balance between work (extra-curricular) and work (academic) is a hard one to get right, especially for a young person. Talking to prospective undergraduates about the nitty gritty financial practicalities such as bank accounts, grants and living costs, rather than burying our heads in the sand, must be the right way to send young people off into the real world. And, in reminding them that their studies are more important than their immediate financial situation, a soft touch and some kind advice on student jobs can be helpful when done in the right way.