Student finance: A little work goes a long way

Getting a job at university can make all the difference, just don't forget to study

For Laura Lea, working part-time while studying for her English literature degree at King's College London was inevitable. With her student loan barely covering the high living costs in the capital, she knew that without some form of part-time work she would be graduating with large debts.

"I would not have had any money had I not worked," explains Lea, who chose to work through her entire degree, first as a waitress and then as an assistant at the Wimbledon Bookfest. "The money I earned helped cover some everyday costs and pay for my social life."

Education doesn't come cheap. While the rising cost of tuition fees has been well-documented, the increases associated with living expenses have received less media coverage.

Accommodation is more expensive than ever, while higher than average inflationary increases on food and travel have left students at a disadvantage. The Open University estimates that in July 2008 the rate of inflation for full-time students was 6.6 per cent – 2.2 per cent higher than the official measure of inflation at the time.

Course fees, books and equipment, and living costs combine to create a bill of around £16,850 a year for students, says the National Union of Students (NUS), which estimates that once the maximum amount of funding available has been taken into account, the average student is left with a shortfall of £7,800.

Working is one way to minimise the impact of this on credit cards and overdrafts. Indeed, some 53 per cent of students work during term time, according to the most up-to-date government figures from a Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills report in 2007. It's a figure that keeps rising over time – a report by the NUS and Trades Union Congress estimates that 54 per cent more students were forced to find part-time employment to pay for their education in 2006 than they had 10 years earlier.

So what sort of job opportunities are available to students? "The type of roles available will depend on where a student lives and how big the town or city is where the university is located," says Jamie O'Connell, marketing director at The Student Room, an online forum and advice centre for people in further and higher education. "The university or student union might have employment opportunities in the bars and cafés, or might need students to promote social nights by distributing flyers," he says. "However, there is also the option to freelance from home. The website Studentgems is a place where students and graduates can put up a portfolio of work. Employers then look for the skills they need and use individuals on a casual basis. They get cheap labour while the student gets experience and income."

Students can also turn to recruitment agencies and websites, such as Reed, Manpower, Studentjobs4U and Employment4Students, which place people in temporary jobs, while those who don't want to commit to regular shifts can find work via agencies such as the Esprit Group, which specialises in placing individuals in hospitality and events roles.

However, one of the best places for students to find work will be through an institution's own careers office, says Pete Mercer, vice-president of welfare at the NUS. "There will be a careers service within a university that is likely to incorporate a job shop or jobs board of some description," he explains. "It will also probably organise a job fair at the beginning of the academic year. Local companies will go to these fairs looking for students for current or future vacancies."

How deep the dent will be in levels of debt depends entirely on the job and company. At the very least it will be the national minimum wage of £4.98 per hour for 18- to 20-year-olds and £6.08 per hour for workers aged 21 and over (£6.19 from October 2012), while some students have been known to earn much more, says Mercer.

However, he adds the caveat that students should be wary of taking on too many shifts as a means of generating more income.

"It is not advisable to work any more than 15 to 20 hours a week as studies have shown it could impact negatively on degree results," he says.

This was precisely what happened to Becky Naylor, who worked throughout her first year at university. As with Lea, she found that once her rent, transport and food had been paid for out of her student loan, she had virtually nothing left. She got herself a job in a bar, working 16 hours a week for just under £100.

"Working did provide me with financial independence and a social life, but I found it difficult to fit it in around my studies," she reflects. "I would leave university after a full day at around 5.30pm and then work until midnight. It often meant I couldn't do the work required for the following day and I was always tired. I stopped working after my first year as I didn't want to compromise my degree."

While it's important for work not to negatively impact on studies, there are more benefits than simply keeping debt levels to a minimum. It can also help pay it off more quickly once graduated. How? Students can use their valuable experience to boost their job prospects, says Brian Dwane, director of Broadstone Resourcing.

"It is a highly competitive market at present and students need to do everything they can to stay one step ahead," he says. "Bar work and admin jobs can help develop soft skills such as good communication and ability to work alongside others, but what's even better is if you've worked in roles related to your degree, which shows you have initiative, drive and are career-focused."

Laura Lea agrees. She believes that her part-time role at the Wimbledon Bookfest played a key role in her being accepted to do a Masters in journalism at Cardiff University.

"I've benefited financially as I would definitely have finished by maximising my overdraft had I not got a job, but my CV is also looking really strong now," she enthuses. "The team at the Bookfest took the time to train me which has given me lots of really useful experience, not just in office skills but in the arts and media. Working while studying has definitely made a big difference to my future."

Seven Tricks for Budget Balancing

Buy before you try

Don't leave yourself a list of things to buy when you arrive – bring as much as you can with you (preferably paid for by your parents). Your student loan can seem huge at first, but alcohol, toiletries and takeaways will quickly dent it .

Get your math on

Listen when you are told to work out a sensible daily budget. It's boring and lots of students give up, but just knowing your limits will help you keep tabs on your spending (and avoid going into your overdraft).

Let's all chip in

No, let's not. Getting money back for "joint" ventures is difficult, especially if you've left it a few days in the vain hope they'd remember. It's even harder when it's a small amount per person – but £1 debts add up and you'll find yourself out of pocket.

Timing is paramount

Try to synchronise big spends with incoming funds. Anticipate large outgoings, like event tickets or special nights out, and budget for them in advance. Also, if you're going to run out of shower gel, do it in the holidays so you can use the family supply.

Here's one I bought earlier

If you know you're going out, buy a cheap snack from the supermarket for those inevitable post-lash munchies. Takeaway shops smell great but charge a fortune; doner and chips is much less tempting when you think about the 69p sausage roll saved in your fridge.

Location, location, location

Specifically, locate that supermarket stomping ground for skint students everywhere: the reduced aisle. You might come out with onion bhajis when you went in for a Müller corner, but at 37p who's complaining?

Golden ticket

Don't forget your student card. Ever. It will get you discounts on all sorts of things, from clothes and shopping to cinema trips and museums (not that anyone ever goes to those). It's a free pass to saving money.

Jordan Harries has just finished the first year of a combined arts degree at Durham University

News
The Banksy image in Folkestone before it was vandalised
people
Life and Style
tech

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Sport
football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
News
Brian Harvey turned up at Downing Street today demanding to speak to the Prime Minister
news

Met Police confirm there was a 'minor disturbance' and that no-one was arrested

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010
films

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

Voices
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'
voices

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
News
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)
news

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Life and Style
Northern soul mecca the Wigan Casino
fashionGone are the punks, casuals, new romantics, ravers, skaters, crusties. Now all kids look the same
Life and Style
gaming

I Am Bread could actually be a challenging and nuanced title

News
Nigel Farage has backed DJ Mike Read's new Ukip song
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Year 5 Teacher

£80 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Year 5 Teacher KS2 teaching job...

Teacher

£80 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: KS1 & 2 Supply teachers ur...

Year 4 Teachers needed for day to day and long term

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

PPA Cover Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Pr...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past