Should working during term be allowed?

Forget college marriages and candlelit formals, I want this tradition explained to me


A common part of the university experience for most people is the job which they take on alongside their studies. Often, this might be a student’s first job, offering them valuable work experience, developing skills of time management and (perhaps most significantly) helping to fund the ever increasing cost of university life. This is not the case in Cambridge.

That’s easier said than done! (Image credit: author’s own screenshot via @2Cam2Fess )








Cambridge certainly has its strange quirks and traditions; the university of gowns, formal dinners, ‘Bridgemas’ and weeks which start on a Thursday (seriously I’ve never understood this one!) However, perhaps the most baffling is the university’s decision to restrict our ability to work.

The common response here of course would be that a Cambridge student is far too busy to work, indeed the official reasoning is that the workload within your course is far too great to devote time to studying and working. Why work when you could be reading a book?

The cost of living in Cambridge is continuing to rise

Well the simple answer to that question is that over the past few years, living costs have soared with student loans often failing to cover costs. With the current cost of living crisis, this has been made exponentially worse, with your trip to Mainsbury’s costing increasingly more due to inflation driving up prices.

This issue of money is not solely linked to the necessities either, it is intrinsically linked to socialisation within Cambridge, which then further entrenches existing inequalities within the student population.

If the entirety of your student loan is spent on the essentials with no further access to disposable income, then how might you access the joys of Cambridge nightlife?

My trips into town are increasingly more expensive (Image credits: Stefan Wilkinson-Hill)

Whether you prefer to enjoy an evening in one of the clubs about the city, debating and talking all things politics at the Union, or just simply wish to have a drink or two in your college bar, Cambridge can be an expensive city, and socialising comes with a price tag.

This price tag can then become very exclusionary when you factor into the equation the inability of students’ to earn the money to fund this lifestyle, this then threatening to create a divide in the community between those who can afford such activities, and those who simply cannot.

What does the university do to help?

There are bursaries and funds available, however these are often not advertised and still fail to access many of those students financially struggling. It isn’t altogether entirely impossible to understand the university policy, but when times are as exceptional as they are now, surely a policy change is due.

The university does allow students to work within the university itself, with some colleges allowing students to work on the catering team. However, is this really an adequate solution, expecting us to serve food to our friends? It seems to me far more sensible to allow students to get part time jobs where they can decide where they can work.

The university’s policy on work outside of term is admittedly more lenient, however this does little to solve the issue as launching straight into a full-time job in your holidays can threaten academic performance and, more importantly, student wellbeing. Many students find themselves having to work multiple jobs within the holiday immediately after finishing the exhausting Cambridge term.

Are we really so dreadful at time management?

Could it not be argued that many societies take up far more time than a part time job would? Take rowers for example, who arguably spend far more time training, doing ERGs and whatever else you rowers do, than many would spend if given the opportunity to work?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m obviously not suggesting a ban on rowing, however the university clearly recognises students’ ability to sensibly manage their time. Yet when it comes to getting a job, the university seems to think we are completely incapable.

Is a punting picture enough to show my solidarity with the rowers? (Image credits: Stefan Wilkinson-Hill)

Of course, clubs and societies provide opportunities for relaxation and pleasure, and this is not something which ought to be compromised for the sake of student employment being opened up as a possibility.

Nevertheless, giving us the chance to simply chose would allow a greater freedom with how to spend our time, and how to increase our access to these societies and social events.

Allowing students to hold jobs opens up new doors and possibilities

The arguments to allow students to get jobs don’t end at those linked to finances either. Through the experience of work during university, students have the opportunity to build and develop skills which become vital when crossing the bridge to employment after university – skills which can only be developed through genuine experience working a job and balancing priorities.

This work experience can then be put into use when entering employment after university, since most jobs require experience of some kind, and to build this experience in university seems the most convenient time.

‘Crossing the bridge’ (Image credits: Stefan Wilkinson-Hill)

University is at its heart, a place of learning – yet Cambridge denies its students the opportunity to broaden their expertise in the work place, skills which are equally important when a student leaves university.

It is time that Cambridge changed this strange policy which deepens inequality, threatens student’s mental health and puts the ‘academic success’, which the university prides itself on, at risk.

The University of Cambridge has been contacted for comment.

Featured image credits: Stefan Wilkinson-Hill

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