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Students swayed from studies as costs continue to soar

According to the Higher Education Policy Institute think tank and Advance HE, more and more university students are doing paid work alongside their studies as they are struggling to cope with the current cost-of-living crisis.

The survey, which is conducted annually and consisted of over 10,000 students, showed 55% of students are now doing paid work, compared with a total of 45% of them 12 months prior.

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Following this, 76% also said the cost-of-living has had a negative impact on their studies.

In addition, the study uncovered the average time spent working is 13.5 hours per week among the students who reported being in paid employment.

‘This suggests more students may be undertaking so much paid work it could adversely affect their studies,’ according to the report. The document also adds that the rise appears to reflect ‘the financial pressures that many student are under.’

The 2023 Student Academic Experience Survey, which was carried out between January and March, suggests that students in paid employment are more likely to consider leaving their course compared to their peers.

‘A reasonable assumption here is that the demands of balancing work and study are creating pressures that are leading to the prospect of non-continuation for some,’ the study said.

As a way around helping free up more of students time so they can focus on their studies, the Higher Education Policy Institute report encouraged the government to review the maintenance loans system to ensure they increase ‘in a timely fashion’ and in line with inflation, which isn’t reducing as much as experts like, according to recent figures released by the ONS.

Maintenance loans are separate from tuition fees – which pay for the cost of the course – and are intended to cover accommodation, food, books and any other equipment students need.

Although these loans are increasing. By 2.8% in 2023-24 for those with loans in England, 9.4% in Wales and 40% in Northern Ireland, a survey conducted last September by Save the Student found students’ living costs had increased by 14% in 12 months, suggesting that this increase is not enough to help student live.

A spokesperson from Universities UK, which represents 140 universities across the UK, said: ‘Universities are doing their bit by increasing hardship funding, offering subsidised or free food on campus, and increasing other forms of pastoral support.

‘But there is a limit to what they can do without action from government.’

Image: Pang Yuhao

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