A survey conducted by Cherwell has shown that the proportion of students that undertake paid work during term time is significantly lower than the national average. A report conducted by the NUS and Endsleigh Insurance showed that 57% students nationwide have a part-time job alongside their studies, with 90% of these students working as many as 20 hours a week.
Comparatively, only 20% of Oxford students surveyed worked during term time and the majority of those completed less than five hours paid work per week on average. Most colleges forbid students from completing paid work outside of the college; however those colleges that have opportunities for paid employment rarely offer more than ten jobs to the whole student body which can consist of 400 people, making competition for work fierce.
The proportion of Oxford students who work during the vacation, however, is almost identical to the national average at 56%. Many of those surveyed said that working in the vacations had a negative impact upon their academic performance. An anonymous Exeter student said, “I do English so doing the primary reading in the holidays is pretty key to managing the essays during term. Having to work often means I don’t get this all done as at the end of a 9-5 day I’m pretty knackered and can’t concentrate properly.”
A student at Keble also commented, “College don’t make it clear enough what kind of financial support is available for those who need it, meaning that many of us choose to work excessively during the vacations, compromising our academic success.”
Official estimations from Oxford University put the cost of living in Oxford for sixth months of the year (the average time undergraduates spend living in the city when accounting for vacations) at between £5,670 and £8,000. This means that students who are not eligible to receive grants or loans above the minimum amount offered by student finance face a shortfall of between £2,000 and £4,350 per annum. A student working on the minimum wage for 18-21 year olds would have to work over 850 hours each year on top of their degree to fill this deficit. This would mean working full time for 22 weeks of the year, giving students one week to devote to studying in each vacation.
Lizzie Mundell Perkins, a second year English student at St. Johns, sells tickets at the University church on High Street. She told Cherwell,
“I used to work as a waitress and did one ten hour shift a week – it definitely affected my work and made me tired and stressed but I managed to find a job at the University Church. I do one or two shorter shifts but they are very flexible… Obviously it still takes up time but I need the money. My parents are unable to support me financially and the student loan only leaves me with £150 per term after accommodation.
“I am managing fine with my academic studies, however, and my I think that the stigma that the university hold against part-time work is completely misplaced. I do sport and music to a university level and still manage to study with a job as well. Working is a great way to get outside of the Oxford bubble and I am proud to support myself financially.”
A number of students are more entrepreneurial, and choose to establish their own businesses. Jamie Ohlmeyer Parker, a third year Classicist at New college, runs a business renting out white tie to students. “I was spending maybe 10-20 hours a week on it last term but there aren’t any balls this term… I treated it as a hobby more than as work… In my view it’s actually pretty easy to earn money while at Oxford if you’re creative about it. As an Oxford undergrad you can charge a minimum of £15-20 per hour for tutoring work for almost any degree and that work might be seasonal (i.e. only before exams) but it’s well paid and if you sweat your assets in the Easter and Christmas holidays I don’t see why you would need to work during term time.”
Sophie Lucas, a second year History and Politics student at Univ said, “I want to go into policy research which means doing unpaid internships in the vacations. I’d like to be able to do more paid work but it’s hard to manage with career stuff and academic work and a lot of places want students to commit for longer periods of time than is possible.”