18 March 2024


It's called 'placement poverty'—that period university students enter when they have to do a work placement to complete their degree but also have to give up their regular paid work to do it. Whether they're teachers or nurses, or one of the many professions where the work placement is mandatory, these students lose out for up to a year across the life of their degrees.

I've seen this firsthand. My nearly-30-year-old son Harry returned to uni as a mature-age student to do a full-time primary teaching degree and faces this a multiple times a year. He loves the prac experience but he doesn't love what it does to his already-tight student budget. It means sacrificing regular weekday work and if you already rely on weekend work as part of your income then there's no time to pick up extra hours. Students tell me that it's often parents who provide assistance during these times so that they can pay their rent and eat. But not every student has that option, so I am urging for paid placements. As the recent report from the Universities Accord said, this is one of the things we need to do to help students with the cost of living and to help people from poorer backgrounds to get through uni and not quit simply because they can't afford to do their compulsory placements. It's one of many changes that I'll be urging for so that we give students a quality tertiary education.