Students from poorer homes and ethnic minority backgrounds are jeopardising their chances of a top degree by taking on too much paid work in term-time, the university spending watchdog says.
Some students were averaging 47 hours of employment a week to make ends meet, the study, commissioned by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, found. Three in 10 worked more than 20 hours a week - and one in 12 more than 30 hours.
It is the first detailed analysis of the link between term-time working and a student's ultimate degree pass. It shows that the chance of those working 15 or more hours a week getting a first or upper second class honours degree was only 62 per cent of those who concentrated on their studies.
The research also found that working-class students were still likely to have run up bigger debts by the time they left university - one in five ended up owing more than £15,000. Many of those working long hours admitted they were producing poor assignments (51 per cent) and skipping lectures (42 per cent). More than 80 per cent said they spent less time studying because of their jobs and nearly three-quarters cut the time spent preparing assignments - compared with those who had no need to work.
"The statistics in this report are hard to spin," said Kat Fletcher, the president of the National Union of Students. "Three-quarters of students working during term time are putting their degree in jeopardy."