The working student

The Vice-Chancvellor of the University of Melbourne in Australia, Professor Glyn Davis, recently wrote about some of the financial pressures on students. In Australia, he said, 44 per cent of students are also in employment of some sort or another while undertaking their studies.

In fact, some work done in Ireland has suggested that a remarkably large percentage of students doing full-time degree programmes are also working in jobs that are, statistically, counted as full-time jobs. The impact of this can be seen in class attendance, and no doubt also in the inability of some students to devote enough time to course work and revision.

As financial pressures increase this is unlikely to get much better, and it may be time for universities to review how they structure their courses. The assumption that students are available without competing pressures during what one might loosely call office hours is not necessarily a valid one any more, at least for some students. How this can be accommodated within higher education practice is now an issue that should be addressed. Otherwise we may face a system in which a major proportion of students is not properly engaged with the learning process.

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8 Comments on “The working student”


  1. [...] “… As financial pressures increase this is unlikely to get much better, and it may be time for universities to review how they structure their courses. The assumption that students are available without competing pressures during what one might loosely call office hours is not necessarily a valid one any more, at least for some student …” (more) [...]

  2. Niall Says:

    Perhaps move towards more distance learning. This might also increase the number of mature students

  3. Mary B Says:

    Sadly is this not about selling HE qualifications as credentials for a ‘better’ job? If that’s seen as the only benefit of university education, it will be assumed that people will work to pay for the higher standard of living associated with a ‘better’ job.If on the other hand HE is presented as a means of acquiring ‘philosophia’ and enabling people to reach their full potential, would that not be more wholesome? As a taxpayer and academic (as well as a parent) I’d gladly pay more tax so that students could do just that without having to take up paid work.The idea that HE is just about market forces should I believe be challenged.

  4. Perry Share Says:

    Plus it might mean that workinglearning becomes a 2-way process, with tertiary institutions doing more to engage with the places that students are working and recognising the skills and attributes students are developing through their workplace activity (and not just the capacity to balance three plates on your arm, valuable though this is).

    • Al Says:

      I see validity in what you say.
      There needs to be recognition for skill development…

    • Jilly Says:

      I’ve always been hugely impressed by the ability to balance 3 plates on your arm – I may have a PhD, but I’d never be able to do that! :)

  5. Richard Says:

    If the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting the result to be different then the way in which we categorise students in Ireland surely falls under that definition.

    ‘Hunt’ has asked for greater flexibility of response from institutions, more distance and on line programmes and greater numbers of part time and mature students. There must be a change in the current model of student categorisation whereby those studying 60ECTS credits are considered full time (and entitled to fees remission and maintenance supports) and those doing 59 or less are categorised as part time (and entitled to very little or nothing). Without this change there is little prospect that either part time numbers will grow significantly or full time students, who are under severe economic pressure, will devote more time to tuition and less to part time work.

    Remove the distinction between part and full time, change HEI progression rules to allow more credit accumulation and change the funding model to a credit rather than bodies based one.


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