Working at University: what roles might exist for students?

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Author: Mark Bryan

University life can often feel like you are studying for a degree in time management. Balancing so many facets of your education, individual modules, social life, home life, independent study, and your finances, all feel like stars need to align just perfectly (and they often never do) to make the most of your degree. With so many demands on your time, balancing your finances can often seem like an impossible task too and while the gig economy might offer alternative opportunities around your studies, it might surprise you that there could be plenty of work available on your campus.

There are myriad reasons why working for your university would be beneficial. Working where you study can often tie the entire student experience together. Being on campus more often opens more opportunities for extra-curricular work, the chance to network with other schools and departments, and you will become more familiar with the services offered. Plus, any role you do undertake will be sympathetic to your studies, allowing you greater freedom to manage your time. This is all icing on the cake of course, but the cherry on top is that if you show initiative, you can often create work for yourself.

Cool huh?

So, what roles might be available on campus?

Student Union services:
The student union will often advertise roles on your university website. If you have a coffee shop, restaurant, bar etc. on site, there will always be a need to fill these roles during term time. These are great jobs to be involved in as most will require little to no experience to jump into. Some of these opportunities can offer insights into commercial roles too, particularly with food preparation and hygiene. If your university has a culinary school, there will often be a silver service restaurant attached, so if you’d like experience in tending bar, waitressing or food prep, there are likely to be opportunities here too.

Student Events:
More ad hoc roles could see you helping at events as stewards. Typically, one -or two-day events like career fairs, festivals or student-driven events will see you providing orientation and wayfinding for visitors and students alike. Experience here provides an excellent starting point to become an events steward outside of the university, potentially working at stadiums or music festivals. Some universities might sponsor you to train for a level 2 Spectator Safety qualification, a great side hustle to have experience in.

Student Ambassador:
While there is some overlap between working in Student events and being a Student Ambassador, meaning you will often work events too, there is greater responsibility as an ambassador. Here you will be a direct representative of your university, often employed to provide tours of the campus, finding long-term work introducing students to the site and being a liaison between visitors and University services. There are other opportunities to work at the graduation ceremonies too, often week-long affairs off-campus in stadiums or music venues. Many universities also run courses during the summer, often employing Ambassadors for the duration.

This role in particular, will have you networking across the entire university and will stand you in good stead for permanent roles where student interaction is essential.

SEN Provisioner/Helper:
There is always a pressing need within universities to provide disabled students the greatest level of autonomy in their studies. Though all schools are required by law to provide wheelchair access, other disabilities require more personal provision. This is where SEN assistants come in. You won’t find this role advertised within the university, but through external agencies. Student services can direct you to the agencies prescribed to your university. Once vetted, there is a greater chance of being successful, owing to your knowledge and relationship to the campus.

If you have experience in customer service or have a good telephone manner, clearing should be on your radar. A cross between data entry and answering the telephone, the role assists potential students in enrolling at the university after the application deadline. A typical day will have you troubleshooting student applications and replying to emails.

Typically, the role might start in August and run through to the end of September. Most universities have a clearing period in January to February too. This is a great position to work in as it is usually before the semester starts.

Auditing (Scheduling and Facilities)
Scheduling: If you like exercise, this is the role for you. This is unlikely to be advertised as this will be done by the administrators. However, given the physical nature of the work (a lot of walking), it might be offered to the right student.

In essence, this work involves going to every teaching room during lesson time and counting how many attending students there are. This is done to keep accurate data on whether lecture rooms are being utilised correctly and whether students are swiping in with their ID cards. There are several reasons why this role is important despite its simplicity, but the main one is to make sure students are tagging in correctly and keep getting those lovely bursaries.

Auditing Audio/Visual/Facilities:
Another position that is unlikely to be advertised is usually under the purview of department heads or teaching assistants. If your university has a film school or any department with equipment that can be loaned to students, this department will require a record keeper. The role might involve checking inventory, deliveries and collections and reminding students the equipment is late back. Sometimes you will find yourself updating and recording risk assessments on student projects. If you have an interest in gadgets technology, this could be a perfect fit.

I.T. Department
In most cases there will be a pressing need for 1st line technical support on your campus. Whether it’s helping students reset their passwords, fixing printers, or escalating other technical issues, this role requires no small amount of technical savvy. If you have this knowledge or are quick to learn, this position tends to have an ongoing need to be filled throughout the academic year.

Getting the right mix between your work and life balance can be stressful, but it need not be. Through these roles and the many not on this list, there are myriad opportunities to network and make connections, to further your own interests and experience. To the right individual with the right mindset, you might be able to create your own work, supported by your university.

In the words of the great Milton Berle:

“If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”