Examination of witnesses (Questions 360
WEDNESDAY 31 JANUARY 2001
and MS LINDSEY
360. Access and retention are linked, and access
(Professor Callender) Absolutely.
361. You say in your report, "Those potential
students who are debt adverse or are willing to embrace such a
culture and who have insufficient parental support or private
means may see debt as a barrier to their access to full-time higher
education." Would you agree that it is very hard to envisage
a sensible study being done about access as well as retention
that did not really address the issue of debt?
(Professor Callender) Absolutely. The other factor
that comes into play are the links between academic achievement,
debt, financial hardship and dropping out. The answer is they
are all linked. Whichever way you cut the data, I spent yesterday
getting myself very confused by trying to do things in a multitude
of ways, whichever way I cut the data there is a very strong link
between levels of debt, levels of hardship, perceptions about
how well students are doing academically at university and dropping
362. HEFCE have produced graphs that show the
point score on access versus the likelihood of dropping out and
showing that there is a link, that the lower the A-level point
score on entry the more likely they are to drop out. Because of
the link between income and qualification, which is also uniform,
those axes could equally show a link between the socioeconomic
background and the likelihood of dropping out.
(Professor Callender) You have to be a bit careful
about the socioeconomic background being the key indicator. There
are differences within class, and that also is a reason why people
drop out. It is then making the next link, what I want to put
at the centre is the fact that some of the reasons why people
think they are doing badly is because of financial hardship. That
is the link that has to come in.
363. Elsewhere in your report, 3.1, you say
"Most full-time students, however, did think their friends
may have decided against university because of the changes of
student funding and financing..." "61 per cent of full-timers
agree with the statement, that changes to student funding have
deterred some of my friends from coming to university. The proportion
of full-time students who agreed with the statement was highest
amongst students from social classes four and five, black students
and women aged 25 and over, the very focus of the widening participation
strategy". Were you trying to send a message with that bold
statement from your findings?
(Professor Callender) I am trying to send a message.
When I started the session, I said I am deeply concerned about
widening participation. I am deeply concerned that some of the
changes that are taking place within the student financial system
may end up deterring certain groups, ie those that are the focus
of widening participation strategies. However, I would also like
to say that the Government, and those of you who may or may have
read my article yesterday in The Guardian have introduced,
and are introducing, some extremely imaginative, I use the word
"imaginative" advisedly, policies to try and deal with
some of these issues.
364. Can I marry up two things I cannot work
out. It says in your report at 3.3, "What impact did financial
hardship have on student's participation in higher education 1998/1999?
60 per cent of all full-time students and 40 per cent of part-timers
reported they thought financial difficulties had negatively affected
their academic performance. 37 per cent had not bought all of
the books they needed because they could not afford them, and
this rose to 67 per cent among lone parents studying full-time.
41 per cent of all full-time students who did not already own
a computer were without one because they could not afford it.
One in ten of both full and part-time students thought about dropping
out for financial reasons". What I cannot understand is that
the press release that came from the Department said that the
report showed that most higher education students received enough
financial support to meet all of their essential costs. Are those
365. Are they also compatible with the lifestyle
we know many students live.
(Professor Callender) What the study shows quite categorically
is there are certain groups of students who experience very severe
hardship. There are groups of students whose income is inadequate,
and as a result they have to borrow large sums of money. We do
have to distinguish between students in general, and certain groups
of students, namely those who are the focus of the widening participation
strategies. It is absolutely right that those groups of students
from lower socioeconomic classes are more likely to be concerned,
or deterred from entering higher education, because of the debts
that they will build up. There is another question within the
study which asks whether students nearly did not come to university
because of concerns about building up debt. Overall only 15 per
cent of all students agreed with that statement. That rises to
a quarter for students from social classes four and five, which
is double the proportion of students from social classes one and
366. I am grateful to you, Professor Callender,
for the specifics. It seems to me in this area there is a big
gap between wish fulfilment on behalf of the student body and
the practicalities of what is happening on the ground. That is
what I want to turn to, the student experience of term-time work.
In your report you said that you found that 46 per cent of all
students have jobs during term time, working an average of eleven
hours a week. I want to ask you, and for that matter Lindsey and
Caroline whether, in fact, you have any figures on how many hours
students might be working at the higher end of that range?
(Professor Callender) I can supply those figures.
One interesting thing is that those students who are living at
home were working much higher than average, they were working
about 17 hours.
(Ms Callahan) We also asked whether or not that affected
those that were working, again we can substantiate this in terms
of the percentage that do have jobs while at university and the
majority feel that that is adversely affecting their studies.
(Professor Callender) Similarly with our study.
(Ms Fidler) The NUS Hardship survey and the Students
At Work survey again substantiate the figures. The Students at
Work survey did find in addition to an average of 13.3 hours,
there was an average of 6.5 overtime per week. If you want the
parameters of this, what the extremes of working would be
367. That would be helpful.
(Ms Fidler) What is important is that all of the studies
have been showing that students do feel that the amount of paid
work they are having to do is having an effect on their academic
performance in terms of the time they have to study, meeting deadlines
and, indeed, mental health, the worry and stress that goes along
with the work, the tiredness they feel and for some the anxiety
or lack of sleep. I think paid work has become a very important
role in the income for the majority of students. Where the income
of students may have risen paid work is actually taking a bigger
part of that income or a more important part of that income, that
itself may affect academic performance and retention.
368. The difficulty with all of that is that
by definition that is the first time. It would be interesting
to see what specific studies there were for part-time students
or mature students coming back. For most students their first
experience of these things is their first experience. Much of
what you are describing is subjective and not capable, as we have
already heard, of being demonstrated?
(Professor Callender) What we do know is that young
people at school also work, it is an increasingly normal experience.
Having to combine work and study is not necessarily new, because
it may be that they work at weekends, et cetera. That, as an experience,
is not necessarily a new experience.
(Ms Callahan) We asked what are the best and the worse
aspects of university. In terms of the top three worst aspects,
first of all having little money, over half said that; being in
debt was the second, 40 per cent said that; and juggling university
work with other commitments was the third. They were the top three
369. Do you think if you asked any student that
question over the last 30 or 40 years you would have come up with
(Professor Callender) This is a benchmark. I would
dearly love to have the answers to these questions from a decade
370. The point I am making, and I am not trying
to be too hard on the statistics, I think that anecdote is always
difficult. In any period or at any time you could have said to
a group of students, "Do you have enough money to live on
at university?" I think they would have said, "No".
The difficulty we have with these statistics, as you rightly say,
is that this is the first benchmark that we have. That is why
I am trying to concentrate the questions on some of the specifics.
(Professor Callender) We can already show the increasing
proportion of students who are involved in paid employment while
they are studying, since 1989.
(Ms Fidler) Also the increased cost of studying and
371. I am going to come on to that, if I may.
I want to ask specific questions about that. Can I ask a little
bit more about the actual work that students are doing and the
impact of what they are doing. When the Committee was in the United
Statesthere is obviously a far longer tradition of students
working, for the reason we knowwe heard a great deal of
differential between the sort of work that was done and, indeed,
for that matter in our conversations with students we have had
in this country on this report. I think one of the things that
concerns me is that we have a situation where certain students,
by virtue of their courses, perhaps, in medicine, where the actual
number of committed hours to the technical work, or whatever,
is much larger than students studying humanities and social sciences.
Those students, by definition, face a much sharper choice between
actually doing that work and getting into debt. Do you feel that
this issue of the differentiation of student's ability to do work
by the sorts of course they do is one that has been taken up sufficiently
and recognised by universities?
(Professor Callender) I do not have any data on the
sort of work that students undertook, I do not know whether they
work in McDonald's or
372. Can I ask you another point, you said that
you do not have data. Do you have data in your study on the differential
experience of students by subject area, ie between people doing
sciences, humanities and social sciences?
(Professor Callender) We do have data.
373. Does that indicate any particular differences?
(Professor Callender) I have not analysed it.
(Ms Callahan) We have a great deal of data broken
down by subject area.
374. In view of the fact that this was a concern
that was expressed to us in the United States and it has been
expressed to us here that it would be useful, not just for yourself,
for HEFCE and DfEE to look more closely at the differential experience
(Professor Callender) I absolutely agree. Universities
UK are commissioning me to do a new study looking in much more
detail about the paid work experience of students. I recognise
it absolutely and, Gordon, within the questionnaire we have tried
to pick up what you are talking about. If you look at other literature
within the higher education literature, work experience is perceived
to be a very positive thing. The issue is whether all work experience
is positive. We asked students in our survey, "Did paid work
affect your academic performance in any way?". If they said
yes, we then asked whether it was a positive effect or a negative
effect. Unfortunately for full-time students in particular only
ten per cent perceived it as a positive experience. In my study
I did not start with the assumption that any paid work is a negative.
375. Because you have not broken down in the
study the sort of work that these students are doing it is rather
difficult to draw broad conclusions as to whether all work under
all circumstances would be detrimental to students studies.
(Professor Callender) I would not like to say that
Chairman: I think we are neglecting Caroline
and Lindsey here.
376. I was going to the ask Lindsey to come
in on that, particularly on the point that I asked about, whether
universities themselves are doing enough to provide work that
is user friendly to their studies?
(Ms Fidler) Paid work opportunities. Quite a few institutions
will provide job shops to help students to find work and guarantee
a minimum wage for that paid work.
377. Are you talking about work within the university
departments or are you talking about fixing them up with a job
in a call centre?
(Ms Fidler) They will act as a recruiter.
378. The point I am talking about, I think it
is an important issue, it is certainly one we had explained to
us in the United States with the differential experience, is that
UK universities themselves have been slow, let me put it bluntly,
to address the needs and expectations of students in terms of
needing to have paid work on their campus, but also paid work
they can dovetail with their course work. I am not really talking
about job shops for call centres. I am talking whether students
get paid work as research assistants, whether they are involved
in teaching, things like that. That is really what I am trying
to get at.
(Ms Fidler) Student unions have traditionally been
good at providing opportunities for students to work on campus.
The academic side of work tends to always be laid with postgraduates.
I do not have any figures on that, this is completely anecdotal.
I think institutions realise the need but I am not sure they can
provide all of the opportunities. There is a move to try and accredit
skills within the work place. Again, that initiative has quite
often come from the student union and student development initiatives.
There is that move in some institutions now to actually try to
accredit skills in the work place. That is not widespread, that
is not within every institution.
(Professor Callender) I just wanted to add a point
which will give you a flavour of the sort of jobs that students
are doing. We found that a quarter were earning below the national
379. Does that not indicate there is more of
a role for university to take a proactive role. What Gordon is
interested in and I am certainly interested in and this Committee
is, is that more proactive role. You could design work that built
on and added and gave value to the course that students were on.
(Professor Callender) Indeed. Again the research that
Universities UK is funding me do will look at good practice.
35 Full-time undergraduates working during term time
(range = 1.40 hours per week) Back
1-10 hours||11-20 hours||21-30 hours||31-40