Degrees on the side: student employment and the neoliberal university

Soundings - ISSN 1362-6620
Volume 2020 Number 76

Degrees on the side: student employment and the neoliberal university
Jessica Simpson pages -
DOI: 10.3898/SOUN.76.05.2020


This article draws on interviews with 39 female students who work, in order to refute contradictory, and class-blind, narratives that see students as either workshy, or as ‘failing’ to prioritise their education over paid employment. The data reveals that dominant ideas of the undergraduate experience are outmoded and fail to represent the multiplicity and complexity of students’ lives. The experiences of the interviewees make it clear just how wide of the mark universities and governments are in their understanding of the employment pressures faced by many students. Rather than being un/employed, young people are now engaging with university and work in ‘new’ ways, in response to the increased neoliberalisation of higher education and the labour markets. Participants ranged from students with side-jobs to students who were doing their degrees ‘on the side’; either as a strategic form of income generation and/or as a result of structural inequalities. The findings from the study add to scholarship demonstrating the need to rethink higher education and how it is delivered in the UK.

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To cite this article
Jessica Simpson (2020) Degrees on the side: student employment and the neoliberal university, Soundings, 2020(76), -.

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