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Cash-strapped students are increasingly turning to work during term-time in order to avoid crippling education debts, according to new research published today.

And unsurprisingly, the research indicates that students from more affluent backgrounds were less likely to work to support themselves than students from poorer families; 55% of students with parents from managerial and professional industries work, whereas nearly two-thirds (61%) of students whose parents are involved in manual labour are forced to work during term-times.

Conducted in tandem by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and the National Union of Students (NUS), the research was commissioned to highlight the somewhat neglected working regimes of today's students struggling to survive. While the report admits that the experience gained during work is invaluable, the hours are often very long and the pay tends to be low.

Brendan Barber, TUC General Secretary, said: "More and more students are being forced to look for paid work not only because they need the cash to survive each term at university, but also because they want to avoid running up massive debts by the time they graduate. This is especially the case among young people from poorer backgrounds who cant rely on regular financial support from their parents".

And this concern has led the two organisations to sign a new agreement to curb student exploitation, in order to encourage more youngsters to join a union when they start working.

Gemma Tumelty, NUS President, noted: "The NUS feel strongly that students need to become more empowered around their rights to decent pay and working conditions and we urge as many students as possible to consider union membership. This protocol agreement is a turning point for NUS. We have always recognised that unionisation will become more and more important to working students who are suffering the consequences of huge personal debt. Now we are getting organised".

"With so many of their peers facing similar difficulties, NUS believe that the relationship of students and their unions will be an incredibly effective way of bargaining collectively as well as ensuring that vital information on students rights and entitlements is disseminated effectively", she added.

Vijay Pattni.

Stay with FE News to read unionlearn Director Liz Smith's new column "“ the first Monday of every month starting next week!

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