Leeds researchers argue for a more nuanced conversation around paid work for students

Amidst mounting public concerns around a perceived increase in students taking on paid work, a group of researchers call for reflection on and redirection of the current debate.

In an opinion piece for Times Higher Education, the team of University of Leeds researchers address a range of assumptions that underpin these concerns and  put forward their vision of urgent priorities for student workers, including reappraisal of student funding, improved working conditions and labour rights, and a wider reckoning with the social and intergenerational inequalities faced by students in England.

The conversation needs to be redirected away from the narrow goal of eliminating student work towards strategies for making students’ lives more liveable, both as students and as workers.

The article draws on data sets and conversations the authors have conducted with women students in schools, colleges and universities across England, as part of their work on a major national study into ‘earning while learning’.  

School of Sociology and Social Policy (SSP) academics Dr Kim Allen and Dr Cassie Kill worked with project colleagues Kate Hardy, Kirsty Finn, Rachel Cohen and Mia Ruijie Zhong to co-author the article for Times Higher Education.

Together the six authors make up the project team for ‘L-Earning: rethinking young women’s working lives’, a three-year research study funded by the Economic and Social Research Council as part of the ‘Transforming Working Lives’ initiative. The project, which began in October 2022, explores young women’s early experiences of work – including work while studying – and how these experiences may contribute to gendered inequalities in later life.

SSP’s Kim Allen, Associate Professor in Social Inequalities, is the Primary Investigator leading the project with Co-Investigator Kate Hardy (Professor of Global Labour in Leeds University Business School). SSP’s Cassie Kill, a Research Fellow in Youth, Gender and Work in SSP, is also on the project team.

The full article, ‘Bemoaning students’ need to work is short-sighted and counter-productive’ is published in full on the L-Earning project website. It can also be read in the Times Higher Education Opinion segment (registration or sign-in required).