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In a cost of living crisis – which has been shown to significantly impact students through a cost of learning crisis, concerns have been mounting that students are being driven into paid work and diverted away from their studies.

Commentators also point to lost opportunities from the wider university offer, including extracurricular activities and careers services. News stories abound of lecturers bewildered by empty lecture halls, as students are forced to prioritise paid work over attending classes and take on extra shifts to help make ends meet.

The government and sector bodies appear increasingly concerned, leading to numerous reports, surveys and an inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Students.

As a team leading a major national study into earning while learning, we have been analysing national data sets and speaking to women students in schools, colleges and universities across England. Through this research, we have become alert to the ways student work is significant both within the wider economy and students’ own lives and understandings of “decent” work.

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