A recent TEFS analysis of data from the AdvanceHE / Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) Student Academic Experience Survey reports from 2012 to 2019 revealed that the pattern of term time employment of students had not greatly altered since 2012 (see TEFS 19th July 2019 ‘Students working in term-time: Overall pattern across the UK’. The majority of students surveyed were not employed in term time and this fitted a general observation of employment data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) quarterly employment data (see TEFS 27th July 2018 ‘The vast majority - one million - of students have no employment when in full-time studies’). The pattern of employment is similar throughout each of the UK jurisdictions; although a significantly greater number of students in Scotland and Northern Ireland work between 6 and 20 hours per week when compared to those in England.
A general assumption is that students with the least resources and family support are more likely to seek employment during the term and work for a greater number of hours. It follows that students from less advantaged backgrounds may be more susceptible to financial pressures and more working hours. The questions addressed here relate to the backgrounds of students and the distribution of working hours per week.
Does postcode area determine the working pattern in term time?
The student academic experience surveys since 2017 have gathered data about the areas students come from. These are subdivided into quintiles based on postcode areas according to the level of participation in Higher Education. This is known as POLAR which stands for 'Participation of Local Areas' in university
Initial analysis in Figure 1 reveals the overall pattern of working in term time. This covers versions 3 and 4 of the polar classifications. Those from the lowest participation areas (Quintile 1) on average work significantly (P<0.01) more hours than those from the highest participation areas (Quintile 5). The participation areas have been broadly equated to levels of disadvantage, however this crude assumption can be highly misleading (see the recent report from the 'Durham University Evidence Centre for Education' (DECE) called ‘Using contextualised admissions to widen access to higher education: a guide to the evidence base’ and discussed by TEFS on 19th April 2019 in ‘Grade inflation and contextualised admissions to university are stirring up a wasp’s nest.’).
But, when looking at the distribution of hours worked in Figure 3, the pattern changes. Students from Quintile 5 areas tend to work fewer hours per week. Their counterparts from Quintile 1 areas, in contrast, tend to work many more hours per week.
The student academic experience surveys since 2015 have gathered data about the type of school that students have come from. A general assumption is that those who attended independent, fee-paying schools come from more
Does type of University matter.
Data about the type of university that students attend has been gathered since 2012 and again there is a general acceptance that those from more advantage backgrounds are more likely to attend the elite universities, such as those in the
Challenging the shibboleth surrounding 'disadvantage'.