Term-time Employment and Student Attainment in Higher Education


  • Cath Dennis University of Aberdeen
  • Vasilis Louca University of Aberdeen
  • John Lemon




Term-time employment, attainment, higher education, performance, workload


The number of UK full-time university students engaging in term-time employment (TTE) is rising. Students engaging in TTE have previously been found to achieve less well academically than those who do not. This study aimed to explore patterns of TTE and academic achievement of undergraduates at a large UK higher education institution. Self-reported TTE hours were matched to attainment data for 1304 undergraduate students in levels 1-4 of study (SQCF levels 7-10). The majority of students in TTE (71%, n=621) reported undertaking TTE to cover essential living expenses. Compared to students not undertaking TTE, attainment was significantly better at low levels of TTE (1-10 hours), and only significantly worse when TTE was >30 hours/week. This pattern was magnified when job type was taken into account – students employed in skilled roles for ≤10 hours/week on average attained grades 7% higher than those not in TTE; students working >10 hours/week in unskilled positions showed a mean 1.6% lower grade. The impact of ‘academic potential’ (measured via incoming UCAS tariff) was accounted for in the model. The finding that students engaging in some categories of TTE achieve better academic outcomes than their non-employed peers is worthy of further investigation. This study is unable to provide direct evidence of possible causation, but would tentatively suggest that students may benefit from taking on 10 or fewer hours of TTE per week.

Author Biographies

Cath Dennis, University of Aberdeen

Mrs Catherine Dennis is a lecturer in the School of Biological Science at the University of Aberdeen.  She has been teaching in FE and HE for 20 years, in the area of biological sciences.  She has provided pastoral care for many students and is interested in the challenges that leaving home to live and study, often with minimal financial support, raise for young people.

Vasilis Louca, University of Aberdeen

Dr Vasilis Louca is a lecturer in the School of Biological Sciences at the University of Aberdeen, and has been involved in HE teaching in biology for 5 years.  Having trained as ecologist, he has a lot of experience in analysis of large datasets. He maintains an active interest in finding new ways of improving the student learning experience.

John Lemon

Mr John Lemon is emeritus computing advisor at the University of Aberdeen and has been heavily involved in all aspects of student surveys for a number of years.


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