Part Time Working

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ET
47,7

Support for working
undergraduates: the view of
academic staff

496

Susan Curtis
Manchester Metropolitan University, Crewe, UK
Abstract
Purpose – To investigate the attitudes of academic staff towards providing practical support for full-time students working on a part-time basis during term-time. Design/methodology/approach – A case study of a rural faculty of a large metropolitan university in the UK. In-depth semi-structured interviews were held with 22 members of staff, drawn from every department in the case study faculty.

Findings – Support for working students is arbitrary and accidental. The majority of staff are unaware of the extent of student employment and of the possibilities of providing support. Research limitations/implications – Only a small proportion of the total university staff were interviewed, coupled with the fact that the faculty is rural and therefore the sample may not be representative of the majority of universities which have city centre campuses. Practical implications – Improved awareness of students’ total university experience on the part of academics may encourage practical measures to assist the undergraduates to cope more effectively with their dual roles of student and worker. However, some forms of support, such as greater flexibility in the timetable, may be very difficult, if not impossible, to accommodate. Originality/value – No other research appears to have been carried out in the UK on this topic. Keywords Undergraduates, Students, Employment, Part time workers, Academic staff, United Kingdom

Paper type Case study

Education + Training
Vol. 47 No. 7, 2005
pp. 496-505
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0040-0912
DOI 10.1108/00400910510626349

Introduction
Undergraduates are now taking term-time jobs due to financial necessity. The debate in the literature has acknowledged this phenomenon and has focused mainly on academic effects (Barke et al., 2000; Watts, 2002; Curtis and Shani, 2002), but also on a variety of other issues such as debt (Christie et al., 2001; Curtis and Klapper, 2005), gender (Lucas, 1997), resistance and control (Lammont and Lucas, 1999), perceived organizational support (Gakovic and Tetrick, 2003) and the psychological contract (Curtis and Atkinson, 2004). No studies have, as yet, examined the perception of UK academics on this increasing trend.

Regularly employed American high-school students have been assessed by their teachers as exhibiting negative classroom behaviours, including fatigue and absences, less attentiveness, reduced participation and effort in class, fewer homework assignments completed and lower academic goals (Bills et al., 1995). However, the teachers had unclear notions about which students worked and which did not, even when claiming that working students do less well academically. Helms et al. (1994) found that teachers did not know the proportion of working students in their school, and only 6 per cent of teachers were willing to accommodate the needs of working students. The accuracy and extent of respondents’ knowledge about the problems of

working students, as well as about existing statutory provisions governing student work, were limited. If academics are ignorant of the extent of part-time working among their students, they are unlikely to attempt to support students who are juggling work and study. Smith and Taylor (1999) say that lecturers do frequently rearrange tutorial times in order to accommodate students’ employment timetables. But they also say that these responses are ad hoc and partial and fall short of considered and formalised policies which universities should implement (p. 161).

The aim of this case study is to explore the extent to which academics perceive that...
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