News Reporter Dan Hunt looks at student money worries in light of COVID-19

Written by Dan Hunt
Hi, I'm Dan and I study English at the University of Birmingham.
Images by Petras Gagilas

A study conducted by Censuswide has found that 53 per cent of first year undergraduate students think they will find themselves in more debt as a result of fewer part-time work opportunities in the city. This, along with the introduction of fines for those who flout COVID rules, means 38 per cent of students expect to spend less this year than they would otherwise.

Seven in ten students believe finding a part-time job this year will be difficult, with non-essential shops, restaurants and bars now closed until December. Even students with jobs in their home towns have found transfers to the city difficult to come by. A first year Politics student worked in her home branch of a large shoe shop chain, but was unable to arrange a transfer to the Birmingham store as a result of the company’s financial predicament. She said ‘I was […] disappointed but I’m hoping I can get [another job] in the New Year.’

I have looked for part-time work and haven’t been successful

Another first year student claims: ‘I have looked for part-time work and haven’t been successful.’ He went on to say: ‘It seems most places have already offered jobs to other people or have a limited take-on.’

While this is worrying, it is also predictable. The UK unemployment rate is increasing, with the latest figures by the ONS suggesting it could be as high as 4.8%. This means there is heavy competition for any job that becomes available, and students often lack the experience and autonomy that other candidates may have, and employers look for.

With regards to COVID fines, 40% of students admit they do not know how they would find the money to pay for them.  This would create a class divide in concern, as one student said: ‘My Dad said if I got a fine he would pay it because he wants me to not worry and have a good time.’ While this is not an option for everyone, the fines are failing to act as a deterrent for breaking the rules, with another student saying ‘[the fines] haven’t changed my behaviour.’

My Dad said if I got a fine he would pay it because he wants me to not worry and have a good time

Students spending less money this year could also be linked to the reduced opportunity to socialise during COVID. However, this research was conducted weeks prior to the second lockdown being announced. Therefore, students are expecting to spend less even with pubs and non-essential shops remaining open. The fact that clubs have largely remained closed as a result of the impossibility of social distancing is another factor, indicating students could be spending less not only as a result of money concerns, but also because there is less opportunity to spend it.

Like everyone else in this worrying time, students face severe financial instability. Although in many cases the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ remains open for business, unemployment rates and loss of income points to students being more on their own in terms of money than ever before. And for first year students, finding their feet in a new city, money could quickly become their primary concern.


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