In January I was sceptical, based on studies of student work and academic results, that increasing Youth Allowance to reduce work hours would pay academic dividends.
The first results (pdf) from the Australian Survey of Student Engagement reinforce the conclusion that the average 15 hours a week that undergraduates work for money is not a cause for concern.
The ASSE is based on a questionnaire (in the pdf above), with the questions grouped for analytical purposes according to six scales: academic challenge, active learning, student and staff interactions, enriching educational experiences, supportive learning environment, and work-integrated learning.
It found that, with the exception of work-integrated learning, only those working more than 30 hours a week off campus showed lower results in the various scales. For work-integrated learning those working more than 30 hours did better. Working on-campus was consistently a benefit.
The main reason, I suspect, is that the student lifestyle typically isn’t that busy by the standards of the professional and managerial jobs most students are headed towards. The ASSE finds that more than half of students report spending less than 10 hours a week preparing for class (unfortunately this question is a a bit ambiguous – the prompt is ‘studying, writing, doing homework or lab work, analysing data, rehearsing or other activities’ – which leaves it unclear whether essays or major assignments would be included). Say 15 hours in class, 15 hours at work, and 10 preparing for class, and you have a not very stressful 40 hour week.
This is just a summary report of the ASSE. The questions asked would let us create student timetables covering paid work, class preparation, and campus activities, and compare those with self-reported grade averages. It would be a useful addition to a debate dominated by intuition and anecdote to know more about the relationships between these variables.