Understanding the Impact

Finance and retention

Making ends meet

Concentrating on studies

Course costs

Sources of support

Finance and work

Debt

This is an abridged extract from the main Pound in Your Pocket survey report review ‘Understanding the Impact’, available for download online.

Overview

Between December 2011 and February 2012, NUS conducted an online survey of English further and higher education students to better understand students’ experience of financial support and the sources of income they use to living expenses, as well as examine the extent financial considerations affect their wellbeing. A secondary objective was to gather information about students’ opinions on the current student financial support system and what changes, if any, could be made to improve it. A total of 14,404 of valid responses were received. The report presents statistics from the key areas explored in the online survey. These are:

  • Student wellbeing: how do financial considerations affect students’ lives?
  • The cost of study: what expenditure do students incur to study?
  • Student support system: what do students receive from the student funding system? What sources of information, advice and guidance are used to find out about these entitlements?
  • Meeting the costs: What sources of financial support and/or income do students have beyond those provided by the student support system? To what extent are these sources needed to meet the costs of study?
  • Student debt: what types of debt do students take on during their studies?

The analysis of this data has been conducted primarily through the lens of student wellbeing. As such, the relationship between financial factors and wellbeing indicators are core to the narrative as we seek to understand what impacts on student wellbeing and the nature of that impact.

Responses from sub-groups of interest have been aggregated and presented for comparison. These include further education and higher education students, postgraduates, part-time and fulltime students and ‘young’ and ‘adult’ students. Consideration has also been given to gender, disability ethnicity, sexual orientation, and to groups such as student parents, students with adult dependents and students who are NHS funded.

 

We have given consideration in higher education to the ‘peer groups’ of the institutions which they attend. For peer institution comparison, the analysis uses the HEFCE TRAC groups A to G (from 2010-11) to ensure a more objective means of comparison between different kinds of HEI based on size and income type. Broadly speaking, institutions in peer groups A and B tend to be pre-1992 universities, those in C-E tend to be post-1992 universities, and those in F and G tend to be smaller and/or subject specialist HEIs. Full lists of groups to which institutions are allocated are available in the full report.

In the survey we collected the postcodes of participants at point of application which has enabled us to make use of POLAR 2 classification. When we look at responses to wellbeing questions by POLAR 2 categories, specifically by the participation of young people in Higher Education and the number of adults with HE qualifications in a neighbourhood, and financial wellbeing, there is consistently a significant relationship between the two. This represents an important proxy for understanding the effect of socioeconomic background on student experiences of financial support. When interpreting data shown in POLAR classifications, Quintile 1 represents students who are or were domiciled in the lowest ranked fifth of local areas for higher education participation when they began their course, while Quintile 5 represents students who are or were domiciled in the highest ranked fifth of local areas for higher education participation when they began their course.

Respondents were also asked to elaborate on what financial support they valued most and what changes, if any, they would make to the student support system. Answers to these questions have been presented throughout the report to provide further context to the statistics.

Methodology

The questionnaire was designed by the NUS research team in consultation with the Student Financial Support Commission, and consisted of multiple-choice questions (with closed and multiple responses), and two open text boxes where respondents were able to elaborate on what they valued about the financial support they received and any changes they would make to the student support system. Where questions asked participants to respond to a statement (such as ‘I feel able to concentrate on my studies without worrying about finances’), responses were given on a five-point Likert scale ranging from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree, with a neutral central option.

Quality Control

Quality controls were built in to the questionnaire design at a number of stages:

  • Respondents who reported themselves as ineligible to take part in the survey, for example because of their nationality, were filtered out at an early stage;
  • Routing was built into the survey to minimise errors. For example, only students who indicated that they had dependent children were asked questions about childcare expenses;
  • In questions asking students to express an opinion about how the support system works, options were presented to respondents in a randomised order to minimise bias.

Self-completion

Eligible students were invited to complete the questionnaire online. It has been suggested that online surveys provide a good opportunity to ask questions that might require the respondent to check documents. Whilst the questions were designed so that respondents did not have to recall items, the survey format allowed respondents to check any relevant information if necessary. The online method also provided a level of perceived anonymity that we hoped would encourage participation in the survey, which examined some sensitive financial issues.

Informed consent

A detailed consent form, providing information about the aims of the study, the use of the data and the content of the questionnaire, was the first compulsory element of the survey. Individuals, who did not consent, by positively answering four separate questions, were not allowed to progress with the survey. Respondents were offered the chance to be sent a copy of the final report via e-mail.

Sampling

Mixed recruitment methods were used to pursue a large sample. A personalised e-flyer was designed and e-mails sent to verified students through NUS databases. The e-mail targeted students studying in English further or higher education institutions, such as universities, further education colleges, sixth form colleges and apprenticeship providers, and included a mix of part-time and full-time students.

The online survey link was directly promoted to students by students’ unions. A briefing was produced for students’ unions to support them in promoting the survey. In addition, the online survey link was promoted directly to students by a range of organisations including: AMOSSHE, NUT, NAMSS, NASUWT, Unison, UCU, the Open University and Vitae.

For a full breakdown of the sample profile, please refer to the main report online.

Key Findings from the Report

The full report has many findings, but for the purposes of this summary we have distilled them to just ten that we regard as critical.

  • 1. There are clear associations between financial support policy and practice, student wellbeing, socio-economic background and retention.
  • 2. Financial difficulties are pushing many students to the brink of ‘dropping out’.
  • 3. Around a third of students across all groups report negatively on their wellbeing, on key indicators such as ‘ability to meet the cost of basic expenses like rent and bills’ and ‘ability to concentrate on studies without worrying about finances’.
  • 4. Even relatively small levels of debt (over £1000) in the form of bank loans, credit cards, or high risk borrowing like ‘pay-day lenders’ and ‘cheque cashers’ are strongly associated with poor student wellbeing.

  • 5. Excessive working hours are associated with poor wellbeing and with coming from areas with low higher education participation rates.
  • 6. Access to financial support from the family has a significant association with both wellbeing and progression to further study.
  • 7. Students across all groups want more cash support such as loans, grants and bursaries, with a high frequency of payments, either weekly or monthly depending on the level of study.
  • 8. Course related costs are prevalent, expensive, and often concealed; there is a clear association between high course costs and low wellbeing.
  • 9. High levels of accommodation and transport costs are associated with reduced wellbeing.
  • 10. Adults (19+) in further education, older students (21+) in higher education, NHS supported students, student parents and disabled students appear to be under particular financial strain.

Financial difficulties and the risk of leaving the course

Among FE respondents, adult FE learners were most likely to report having seriously considered leaving their course (44%).

39% of undergraduate respondents indicated that they had seriously considered leaving their course.

About one in three full-time postgraduate students surveyed (35%) and postgraduate respondents aged between 21 to 24 on entry (34%) indicated that they had seriously considered leaving their course.

Around two in five part-time postgraduate and postgraduate respondents aged over 25 on entry indicated that they had seriously considered leaving their course (42% and 40%, respectively).

Respondents who indicated that they seriously considered leaving their course were asked for what reason(s), and provided with a list of possible options.

Further Education: Have you ever seriously considered leaving your course?

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Further Education: Reasons for seriously considering leaving course, by mode of study

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Undergraduates: Reasons for seriously considering leaving course, by mode of study

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Undergraduates: Have you ever seriously considered leaving your course?

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The most commonly cited reason FE full-time and part respondents gave for seriously considering leaving their course was financial difficulties. This was indicated by 48% of part-time FE respondents and one in two (50%) of full-time FE respondents.

The most commonly cited reason undergraduate full-time and part respondents gave for seriously considering leaving their course was financial difficulties. This was indicated by 49% of undergraduate respondents. Age on entry was also significant in the undergraduate categories: 44% of UG 17–20 cited financial difficulties as the reason for seriously considering leaving their course, but this was 70% for UG 21–24 and 62% for UG 25+.

It [financial support] allows me to stay in college and study, otherwise I would seriously consider reducing the number of subjects I have taken in order to get a job to generate income. – FT FE, 16–18

Worries about basic living expenses

“I regularly worry about not having enough money to meet my basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills."

Overall, 50% of respondents across the sample agreed or strongly agreed with this statement, while one in three respondents (36%) disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Within further education, two in five (41%) respondents aged between 16 and 18 years old on entry agreed or strongly agreed, compared to 69% of respondents aged over 19 on entry. 46% of full-time FE respondents agreed, compared to 56% of part-time respondents.

For undergraduate respondents, 63% of respondents aged over 21 on entry agreed or strongly agreed compared to 48% of respondents aged between 17 and 20 on entry. 66% of NHS funded students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement compared to 50% of non NHS students.ndergraduate.

There were similar levels of agreement among respondents in postgraduate sub-groups (between 48%-50%). The highest levels of agreement was reported by postgraduate respondents aged 25+, with 50% agreeing or strongly agreeing that they regularly worried about not having enough money to meet their basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills.

Respondents studying in Peer Group A were the least likely to worry about not having enough money to meet my basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills (47%), while respondents studying at institutions in Peer Group C were most likely (26%).

68% of student parents and 59% of disabled respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they worried about not having enough money to meet basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills.

53% of female students indicated that they worried about not having enough money to meet basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills compared to 42% of male students.

Further Education: “I regularly worry about not having enough money to meet my basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills.”

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Undergraduates: “I regularly worry about not having enough money to meet my basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills.”

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Postgraduates: “I regularly worry about not having enough money to meet my basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills.”

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Peer Groups: “I regularly worry about not having enough money to meet my basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills.”

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Diversity: “I regularly worry about not having enough money to meet my basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills.”

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POLAR: “I regularly worry about not having enough money to meet my basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills”

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Ability to concentrate on studies

“I feel able to concentrate on my studies without worrying about finances.”

Similar levels of full-time and part-time FE students agreed or strongly agreed with this statement (41% and 40%, respectively). Around three in ten (31%) adult FE respondents agreed or strongly agreed.

Only 42% of undergraduate respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement, with NHS students being the least likely to agree or strongly agree (31%). Students aged 21 to 24 on entry (29%) and over 25 on entry (31%) were less likely to agree or strongly agree than undergraduates aged between 17 and 20 on entry (46%).

Overall, 42% of postgraduate respondents indicated that they strongly agreed or agreed with the statement. The proportions of respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with the statement were similar across modes and ages on entry. Postgraduates aged 25+ on entry had a slightly lower rate of agreement (39%).

Of the Peer Groups, respondents studying at Peer Group A (52%) and Peer Group B (48%) were the most likely to agree or strongly agree.

Less than one in three student parents (27%) and disabled students (27%) agreed or strongly agreed that they were able to concentrate on their studies without worrying about finances.

Financial support gives you the freedom to concentrate on your studies without worrying about the debt and how to make ends meet. The course itself and the workload that comes with it together with personal life issues are enough to deal with. – PT FE, 19+

[I value] the fact that it allows you to survive during your studies without having to worry about work.... It allows you to focus on what you are paying for, the education and experience of university. – FT UG, 17–20

Further Education: “I feel able to concentrate on my studies without worrying about finances.”

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Undergraduates: “I feel able to concentrate on my studies without worrying about finances.”

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Postgraduates: “I feel able to concentrate on my studies without worrying about finances.”

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Peer Groups: “I feel able to concentrate on my studies without worrying about finances.”

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Diversity: “I feel able to concentrate on my studies without worrying about finances.”

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POLAR: “I feel able to concentrate on my studies without worrying about finances”

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Course Costs

Across all groups, the majority of students had paid for materials, activities or other costs associated with completing their programme of study (69% of undergraduate respondents, 67% of FE respondents, and 54% of postgraduate respondents). For all levels of study, full-time students were more likely to have had to pay costs than part-time students.

About one in four (24%) FE respondents spent between £25 and £49.99 on materials, activities and other costs associated with completing their study in the last academic term. Around one in four (25%) undergraduate respondents and one in five (21%) postgraduate respondents had paid between £100 and £199.99 in the previous academic term.

Course costs: relative prevalence

We took a census of what costs students were incurring, so we can see the relative prevalence of different kinds of cost. 20% of the course materials that respondents indicated they had paid for were course books, with other significant costs including printing (16%), stationery(16%), field trips (8%), travel to placements (6%) and uniform costs (5%).

Course costs: wellbeing

45% of respondents who paid less than £25 in the last academic year on costs associated with their course indicated that they felt able to concentrate on their course without worrying about finances. Respondents who had paid higher costs were considerably less likely to indicate that they felt able to concentrate, with the level falling to 37% where costs were at a level of £25–£49 per term, and down to 25% in the £200–£399 per term range.

Around one in two respondents who paid less than £25 in the previous academic term on course materials indicated that they regularly worried about not having enough money to meet basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills. This figure rose to over 58% where costs were at a level of £25–£49 per term, and up to 73% in the £200–£399 per term range.

Costs associated with course last academic term, by level of study

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Ability to concentrate on course without worrying about finances, by costs associated with course last academic term

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Worries about meeting basic living expenses, by costs associated with course last academic term

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Relative prevalence of different course costs

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I have a residential trip… that I have to attend to complete my course. If it wasn’t for the bursary fund then I could not afford to go. – FT FE, 16–18

I would raise awareness of other associated costs, such as required textbooks, as these are often underestimated. – FT UG, 17–20

[Financial support] means that I can meet the additional study costs I accrue due to my disability, and can purchase materials which will lessen the affect my disability has on my study. – PT disabled PG, 25+

Transparency of course costs

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Course costs: transparency

For most costs, more than half of students responded that they had been made aware in advance of the cost. However, the majority of students who paid for bench fees (62%), musical instrument hire (59%), courserelated sports facilities (53%), specialist software (51%) and studio fees (51%) reported that they not aware of the cost in advance.

I study Historical Costume and we are forced to continuously pay for fabrics, materials, and chemicals for dying fabrics that we are unable to do the course without, and which we have had no prior warning of. Let students know if there are going to be a lot of costs for things they can’t progress without. Most of the people on my course have to choose between eating and class, and normally have to go hungry. Art students who are required to pay for materials need a lot more support than we’re getting! – Disabled FT UG, 17–20

Accommodation costs

84% of FE respondents aged 16-18 on entry to their course did not pay monthly rent or a mortgage. In contrast, the majority of undergraduate, postgraduate and FE students 19 years and over paid between £200 and £399 per month on monthly rent or mortgage.

A lower proportion of respondents reporting no monthly rent or mortgage fees indicated that they regularly worry about not having enough money to meet my basic living expenses than those who paid monthly rent or mortgage fees. 36% of student respondents who did not contribute towards their monthly rent or mortgage indicated that they regularly worried about not having enough money to meet basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills. In comparison, almost two in three respondents (63%) who paid between £400 and £599 per month indicated that they regularly worried about not having enough money to meet basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills.

I live at a friend’s house because that’s all I can afford and I know I’m going to have to leave this March and I just don’t know how I am going to cope with my finances. – FT UG, 21–24 Halls are very expensive for what they are... a flat share or renting a house works out cheaper. – Disabled NHS student, 25+ Students should receive more or less loan in accordance to how expensive accommodation at their institution is. – FT UG, 17–20

Transport costs

Around eight in ten (83%) FE respondents had costs associated with travel. The majority of these costs were between £10 and £19.99. Full-time FE students were more likely to pay higher costs than part-time FE students, with 69% of FE full-time students paying more than £10 a week compared to 50% of FE parttime students.

The majority (58%) of undergraduate respondents not funded by the NHS had no travel costs. In contrast, 85% of NHS undergraduates paid travel costs, with 18% reporting the cost was more than £40 a week.

Eight in ten (80%) postgraduate respondents paid travel costs. The majority (73%) of postgraduate part-time respondents paid less than £20 per week on transport, as did 61% of full-time postgraduate respondents. A small minority (7%) of postgraduate respondents paid between £50 and £99.99 a week.

Three in five (61%) respondents who reported that they paid no transport costs felt able to balance commitments such as work, study, and family/ relationships. In contrast, only around one in three (36%) respondents who paid between £50 and £99.99 per week indicated that they felt able to balance their commitments.

Over one in two (54%) respondents who did not pay transport costs indicated that they felt able to concentrate on their levels of study without worrying about finances. In contrast, less than one in three respondents paying over £10 a week indicated that they felt able to concentrate on their studies without worrying about finances.

It is just the travel costs, I have to travel by train and it is 12 every day totaling 60 a week... if I didn’t have to pay this I would be ok! – FT UG, 25+ The Uni is able to provide us all with a small bursary for travel expenses, but to get to our placements it costs far more. If I did not get help from my family, I’d need a personal loan/credit card to see me through. – FT NHS UG,17–20

Government and institutional support

Only 32% of young FE students agreed or strongly agreed that it was easy to understand what financial support they were entitled to and only 22% of young FE students indicated that it was completely clear how much financial support they would receive prior to starting their course. 48% rated it as somewhat clear and 30% not at all clear.

When adult FE students asked whether they agreed that it was easy to understand the financial support they were entitled to, 39% strongly agreed or agreed. Only one in four FE adult respondents felt that it was completely clear how much financial support they would receive prior to starting their course. 35% indicated it was somewhat clear; two in five (40%) reported that it was not at all clear how much financial support they would receive.

Just under half (42%) of undergraduate respondents (excluding NHS students) strongly agreed or agreed that it was easy to understand what financial support they were entitled to. One in three (33%) undergraduate students (excluding NHS respondents) found it completely clear how much financial support they would receive. However, the majority (53%) reported that it was only somewhat clear and a minority (15%) indicated it was not at all clear.

Only 31% of NHS undergraduates surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that it was easy to understand what financial support they were entitled to. The majority (50%) disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement, and the remaining neither agreed nor disagreed. Less than one in five (18%) of NHS undergraduate students found it completely clear how much financial support they would receive before starting their course. The majority (56%) reported that it had been somewhat clear and 27% indicated that it had been not at all clear how much financial support they would receive before starting their course.

Discretionary support

There were significant differences in the propensity of different groups to seek out discretionary funding from their institutions, ranging between 11% (UG exc. NHS) and 30% (FE 19+). The low overall levels of application for discretionary funding may suggest a lack of awareness that these sources are available, given findings elsewhere about the much higher proportions who struggle to makes ends meet.

Support mode and frequency

Clear preferences were expressed for support in the form of cash across all groups, for example: young FE 51%, adult FE 34%, UG (exc. NHS) 64%, UG-NHS 80%. By contrast, no other mode of support delivery (such as fee waivers, travel vouchers, childcare) achieved more than 19% desirability amongst any group.

Groups differed considerably on the question of payment frequency, with young FE students strongly favouring weekly payments (71%), adult FE students evenly divided between weekly and monthly payments (45%/39% respectively), and undergraduates (except where NHS funded) fairly evenly divided between monthly and termly payments (49%/38% respectively). NHS funded undergraduates very strongly favoured monthly payments (66%).

Actual cash at the time of studying is vastly more important than afterwards. – FT UG, 17–20

Monthly instalments would help with such things as paying rent and bills and having the money on the last day of each month would greatly help. – FT UG, 25+

Family support

Over half of respondents indicated that they received support from their family, such as from their spouse, partner, parents or other relatives. The types of support received by family ranged from financial support, accommodation and living support, childcare, transport and food and groceries. The groups most likely to be in receipt of support from their family were young FE students (66%) and students aged 17-20 on entry (61%).

Part-time students, across all levels of study, were less likely to receive support from their family than full-time students. Only 39% of student parents indicated that they received support from their family compared to 58% of students who were not student parents.

Family support and progression

Ability to draw on family sources of support had a significant bearing on their decision to progress to their current level of study or not. Two out of five (38%) respondents who reported that they were in receipt of no family support – financial or otherwise - indicated that financial considerations affected their decision to progress to their current level of study to a great extent, compared to one in four (26%) of those who were in receipt of family support. More than two-thirds (71%) of respondents not in receipt of family support indicated that financial considerations affected their decision ‘somewhat’ or ‘to a great extent,’ compared to 57% of respondents who were in receipt of support from their family.

Family support and wellbeing

57% of respondents who did not receive family support indicated that they regularly worried about not having enough money to meet basic living expenses such as rent and utility bills. This compares to 44% of students who were in receipt of family support. 44% of respondents who received no family support reported that they did not feel able to concentrate on their studies without worrying about finances. This compares to 34% of respondents who were in receipt of family support

Proportion of respondents in receipt of financial support from family, by level and mode of study and age on entry

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I am so grateful for the financial support from my parents. My maintenance loan is £800 short of my accommodation, which is ridiculous. My parents can barely afford to give me money every week to live, let alone paying extra for accommodation. – FT UG, 17–20

The extent to which finance affected the decision to progress to current level of study, by family support status

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Financial worries about basic living expenses, by family support status

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“I feel able to concentrate on studies without worrying about finances, by family support status”

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Reliance on employment

Across the survey sample, 35% of FE respondents, 32% of postgraduate respondents and 28% of HE respondents indicated that they worked during term time and holidays. A further 11% of FE students, 9% of undergraduate students and 16% of postgraduate students stated that they worked in term time only.

Working time

Respondents who indicated that they worked during term time and/or term time and holidays were asked how many hours they worked during term time.

The majority of full-time FE respondents who worked during term time and/or term time and holidays worked 16 hours or less a week: 36% reported working between 0 to 8 hours (or one day a week) and 41% worked between 9 and 16 hours (or two days). A small minority worked 25–32 hours a week (4%) and the same proportion reported working more than 33 hours a week. Of those who were employed during term time and/or term time and holidays, one in three (33%) parttime FE respondents worked between 33 and 40 hours (or 5 days) a week.

A similar pattern was observed for undergraduate respondents. Full-time undergraduates who were employed generally worked between 0 and 8 hours (37%) or 9 to 16 hours (40%), with about 20% of students working longer hours than this. Part-time undergraduates mainly worked between 33 to 40 hours (44%). 44% of full-time postgraduate respondents who worked during term time and/or term time and holidays worked between 0 to 8 hours. One in three (29%) worked between 9 to 16 hours. In contrast, one in two (50%) part-time postgraduate respondents who worked during term time and/or term time and holidays worked 33 hours or above a week.

Now that I have a job … I have less to worry about in terms of getting to and from college as before [when] I was borrowing money all the time. However, it is a lot more tiring working so much [and] then attending college full-time. – FT FE, 16–18

Students who work: worries about meeting basic living expenses, by weekly working hours

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Students who work: ability to concentrate on studies, by weekly working hours

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Working time and POLAR classification

There was a significant relationship between the socioeconomic background proxy and number of hours worked in employment during study. Those from higher participation neighbourhoods were more likely (69.8%) to work less than 16 hours a week than those from low participation neighbourhoods (64.4%). Similarly, those from low-participation neighbourhoods were more likely (35.6%) to work over 16 hours per week than their peers from high-participation neighbourhoods (30.2%). For all respondents who work, there was an interaction between ability to concentrate on studies and POLAR level when measured by both young participation and adult qualifications in HE. People from lower participation neighbourhoods were less likely to agree that they felt able to concentrate on studies, were more likely to consider dropping out found greater difficulty balancing commitments and participation in their programme.

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Borrowing from the government

Almost nine in ten (89%) undergraduate respondents (excluding NHS students) indicated that they had a maintenance loan debt of over £1,000. Two in five (40%) undergraduate students (excluding NHS students) indicated that the total amount of their maintenance loan debt was currently between £1,001 and £5,000. Only a small minority (9%) of undergraduate respondents (excluding NHS students) indicated that they did not have a maintenance loan. A higher proportion (55%) of part-time undergraduates surveyed indicated that they had no debt (excluding government student loans and mortgages) than fulltime undergraduate student surveyed (38%).

Other forms of borrowing for living costs

We asked respondents to tell us about what they have borrowed in forms other than government loans and mortgages. Overdrafts were the most common type of debt incurred, with the majority of both NHS undergraduates (59%) and undergraduates not funded by the NHS (50%) surveyed reporting that they had taken on this type of debt since beginning their current course of study. Loans from family and friends were also common. 34% of NHS undergraduates had taken on a loan from their family or friends, as had 23% of undergraduates not funded by the NHS.

We found that 61% of undergraduate respondents aged 21-24 on entry had taken on an overdraft and 34% had taken on a loan from their friends and family. 29% of undergraduates aged 21-24 on entry and 30% of those aged 35 and over on entry had taken on debt with their credit card, compared to 11% of undergraduates aged 17 to 20.

A higher proportion (55%) of part-time undergraduates surveyed indicated that they had no debt (excluding government student loans and mortgages) than fulltime undergraduate student surveyed (38%). Nearly one in three (30%) undergraduates aged 25 and over on entry had a debt of over £5,000 (excluding student loans and mortgages).

The majority of postgraduate respondents had taken on some form of debt since they began their study, though only a small minority of respondents had taken on a form of high risk debt.

42% of full-time postgraduate students surveyed had taken on an overdraft since they began their course of study, compared with one in three (33%) parttime postgraduate respondents. One in five (20%) postgraduate respondents aged between 21 and 24 on entry were over £5,000 in debt (excluding student loans and mortgages), as were 32% of postgraduate students aged over 25 on entry.

Undergraduates: Types of debt taken on since beginning course of study, by NHS status and mode of study

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Debt and POLAR classification

It is positive to note that the numbers of people taking up ‘high-risk’ debt (such as payday loans, doorstep loans and cheque cashers) is quite low overall, but there is a clear relationship between the prevalence of ‘high-risk’ debt and POLAR classification, where students from POLAR Quintile 1 are three times more likely to take on ‘high-risk’ debt than students from POLAR Quintile 5.

Debt and wellbeing

Respondents with a greater level of debt were more likely to agree or strongly agree that they regularly worried about not having enough money to meet their basic living expenses. Similarly, the greater the level of debt, the less likely a respondent was to agree or strongly agree that they felt able to concentrate on their studies without worrying about finances.

Undergraduates: Total value of current debt, excluding government student loans and mortgages, by NHS status, mode of study and age on entry

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Key wellbeing indicators by current level of debt
(excluding government loans and mortgage debt)

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