The student experience is vast and can be different for each discipline and each student but there is one thing that can connect each of them, Grades. For some, it can be a source of great stress and for others can be a great way to show their achievements. The same thing can be said for part-time work and its benefits for students. But how does paid work effect a student’s academic performance?
The aim of this research project was to find out what effect paid employment had on a student’s academic performance. The methods were designed to find out what type of employment a student had, as well as hours worked and student opinions on how working has affected their grades.
According to research done for this piece, 81% of students surveyed work during the university semester and 88.9% of those students worked on a casual basis. Most students stated that they work on average 15-20 hours a week, although many stated that the hours worked can also depend on the week and their place of employment’s needs. This seems consistent with a 2005 study done on New Zealand students where it was found that students worked an average of 14 hours a week (Manthei and Gilmore, 2005).
An interesting and surprising trend that was found from this research was that many students felt that while working didn’t necessarily negatively affect their academic performance, perhaps poor, or lack of time management did. According to one second-year student interviewed,
“I’ve had to become better at time management because otherwise my assessments would be late or just plain bad”
When asked if they felt the amount they worked in a week positively or negatively affected their university work, a few students responded with the idea that they felt once good time management skills where developed they were able to not have working effect their studies, one student who felt they had poor time management, however, said that working extra negatively impacted their academic performance.
Time management skills aren’t everything but, as many students surveyed felt that they didn’t have much time to even complete homework and assignments if their work was more demanding of their time or if the work being done at university became more difficult. A fourth-year student who started working mid-way into their degree was interviewed about this and stated
“Before I started working, I was maintaining a distinction average. Ever since I’ve started working part time, that’s come down to a Credit average. The work itself became harder as well, but with less time to do study, it made it a more drastic change.”
So if students feel that not working would benefit their grades more if they didn’t work, why are they? A study done by Citigroup and Seventeen Magazine in the US found that coming of age during the 2008 great financial crisis may have given many students a ‘financial wake-up call’ (Fang, 2013). This finding can also be taken from the research done for this project as while 45% of students surveyed stated they worked to pay rent and support themselves, an equal amount stated that they still live at home and are supported by their parents, although it should be noted that the Citigroup and Seventeen did take place in the US and the need to pay for university while studying does impact a US student’s choice to work more than it would an Australian student.
Another reason students are working while they are studying is the notion that, once they graduate, it makes them more employable. According to Study International, working alongside studying can make all the difference to employers (Bilton, 2018). This employability even stretches to work that might not be relevant to the thing being studied by the student, as employers look for people who ‘understand the world outside of the classroom’ (Bilton, 2018).
But is there a way that students can work while also being able to stay on top of their work? The fourth-year student interviewed, when asked if they felt that their university was understanding of the fact that students work stated,
“In my experience, they have not been very considerate about the fact people work. Things like tests or exams will be on Saturdays, or on different days from their usual classes.”
This idea of universities being more flexible with students schedules also came up in the 2005 New Zealand study. It suggested that ‘lecturers should be more aware of students busy lives and try to structure assignments and schedule class times in a more flexible way’ (Manthei and Gilmore, 2005). While It is agreed that there could be more done for flexibility, things like online, late night submission of assignments and recorded lectures are doing a lot to allow students to do both.
While the main conclusions from this study are consistent with others done in the past, it should be noted that the research was only able to be done on a small sample size of the BCM212 cohort and if this exercise where to be re-done in a larger group, results may differ slightly.
Bilton, I. (2018). Turns out employers might not care which university you attended. [online] Study International. Available at: https://www.studyinternational.com/news/turns-employers-might-not-care-university-attended/ [Accessed 8 Jun. 2019].
Fang, M. (2013). Nearly 80 Percent Of Students Work While In School. [online] Thinkprogress.org. Available at: https://thinkprogress.org/nearly-80-percent-of-students-work-while-in-school-2f44edacd275/ [Accessed 8 Jun. 2019].
Manthei, R. and Gilmore, A. (2005). The effect of paid employment on university students’ lives. Education + Training, 47(3), pp.202-215.