Most students, with exceptions of course, don’t have massively deep pockets when it comes to term time. As a result, many students wonder the following questions:
- Are you allowed to work full-time whilst studying on a full-time course?
- Should you work full-time whilst studying on a full-time course?
In this article, I will aim to answer both of those questions to the best my knowledge and research and I hope it makes for an informative read. Below, I’ve listed the direct legal perspective for both domestic and international students. Bear in mind that this is only the legal standpoint and there could of course be indirect reproductions of working too much whilst studying (to be discussed later in this article).
The legal side of things for domestic students: For UK students, there are no prominent hard restrictions in place for working whilst studying. Your current academic institution will commonly recommend or expect you to limit your work hours (under 15 hours a week), however, it is rare universities act on these recommendations unless it is having a noticeable impact on studies.
The legal side of things for international students*: If you are an international student studying at degree level, there is a typical cap of 20 hours per week of work in place during term time. This is commonly applied to those on a Tier 4 or student visa**. Outside of term time (university holiday periods), there is generally no limit on the number of hours you can work, so you could technically work full-time.
(*) This answers the question of legality regarding the amount of work an international student can do. It is important to note that there are also restrictions on the type of work that can be done on certain visas. You can learn more about this later in the article.
(**) If you are on a different visa or program whilst studying in the UK, it is imperative that you check with the relevant authority before undertaking any work.
When are you not allowed to work full-time whilst studying in the UK?
Knowing that you’re allowed to work (with certain restrictions) is helpful but knowing when you are not allowed to, or at least shouldn’t, work is arguably more important.
Below, I’ve listed some common reasons that mean you either aren’t legally allowed to work whilst studying or at least you really shouldn’t:
- Visa restrictions: If you hold a Tier 4 or student visa and wish to work more than the permitted number of hours per week, know that it is illegal to do so. In this instance, if caught, the likely repercussion is deportation and your visa being revoked.
- Sponsor restrictions: If someone is sponsoring you to study in the UK whether you are an international student or not and they explicitly request that you don’t work whilst studying, this should be considered. The repercussions of this are not as direct legally speaking but it could likely mean that your tuition funding would be withdrawn for outstanding years / payments.
- University-specific restrictions: Some universities simply recommend that you aim to work less than 15 hours per week. However, some universities outright have an expectation that you are not working during term time. For example, the University of Cambridge explicitly state that their “students shouldn’t undertake paid employment during term-time”. You can see where they state this here. Although it is said that the university do not actively enforce the policy, they will make assertive requests to limit your work if it in any way affects your academic performance.
On a final note, there are some other articles that discuss this topic in significantly more detail. If you are interested about this topic, I recommend that you check out the following: