«S u e Cl e g g J a cq u e li n e Steve nso n J o h n W ill ot t Acknowledgements This project has depended on the support of many people, to whom we ...»
(Student 23, Male, 27, White British, Music Production, other HEI, not 1st generation) The Higher Education Academy 51 Many had undertaken volunteering activity prior to accessing higher education and many were participating in volunteering while studying. This ranged from voluntary activity facilitated by the more vocational courses such as those related to the film, events and sports industries, through to voluntary work supported by the University (particularly international volunteering) and to activity that students were undertaking for personal rather than course-related reasons. However, even when participation was not facilitated by the University,
students were aware of the value of participation:
Because you have given up your time in general I just think it looks well... selfless and yes it just shows you that you have got more important things than earning money.
(Student 25, Male, 21, White British, Sport & Exercise Nutrition, sixth form college, not 1st generation) Paid work Paid work was considered the second most valuable form of ECA (when it was recognised as ECA). It was valued both with regard to value to employers and employability, but also of value to them as students in supporting their course work. Many students were very aware, without much prompting of the skills they
were developing through employment:
Possibly the main thing is my actual confidence in teaching, communicating... organisational skills, time management, I have had to improve, just because my whole life had come to absolute chaos in the beginning because I have to make sure I am here at the start of the lectures, I have to make sure that no-one is going to want me anywhere else until the end of that lecture.
(Student 39, Male, 20, White British, Christian, Sports Development, comprehensive school, not 1st generation) However, what is particularly interesting is the difference between those students who considered paid work only valuable when it was within the same or similar field to the job they would be applying for, and those who saw the
value of generic, transferable skills:
I mean it depends like what job I’ve got in my third year but if there’s something that would look better on a... that would look better than working in a night club, like sometimes I think working in a call centre looks quite good or a nursery but a night club and a supermarket I thing aren’t particularly good.
(Student 9, Female, 19, White British, Social Sciences, sixth form college, 1st generation) [on working in a club]... well just dealing with people, you know, you are given briefings day to day, you are managing a team. Its all relevant, it’s what, you know, what being an Events Manager is which is effectively what we are training to do. There are loads of transferable skills, such as dealing with money, finance, business, marketing, you know.
(Student 56, Female, 21, White British, Methodist, Events Management, sixth form college, not 1st generation) The Higher Education Academy 52
Some students appeared particularly adept at writing CVs:
I mean my paid work it will help me because obviously I have got the reference of actually having a job but also I have been... I have got fork lift driving licences as well, I have got money handling experience, I have got responsibilities that I have gained from, so yes they definitely will be something extra on my CV when it comes, and it is something I can show that I have got... because at the end of the day there are that many people who go to university you have got to be able to show that you have got something extra on top of them and at the end of the day your degree qualification will only get you the interview it won’t get you a job.
(Student 34, Male, 21, White British, History & Politics, sixth form college, not 1st generation) Sporting activities The majority of students also saw participation in sporting activities as valuable – again partly because it simply demonstrated to employers that they were wellrounded people, but also because through participation in (team) sports activities students developed the kind of skills that were useful to employers.
The skills they felt they could gain through sports-related activities were very similar to those skills to be gained through either volunteering or participation in
[when asked for his opinion of the most valuable form of ECA]...
sport. You have to work as a team you have to get to know everyone and you can’t really fall out with people.
(Student 24, Male, 19, White British, Sport & Exercise Science, comprehensive school in state sector, not 1st generation) This was particularly so for those who were actively involved in sports themselves and particularly those on sports-related courses, although those on
non-sports-related also recognised the benefits:
I think by having to stand up in front of 30 people and address them and say ‘oh welcome to the club and my name is this’ or have people crying to me on a river saying that ‘they can’t go on’ and having to think ‘oh my god how am I going to get this person down to the end’.
Or like putting people in bed after they have drank too much alcohol it is all part of my role. Which I think develops those sort of negotiating skills and learning skills and the ability to feel comfortable within yourself and knowing who you are...
(Student 5, Female, 19, White British, Sports Coaching, sixth form college, 1st generation) Caring activities Caring activities were conceptualised very differently by students. Most students did not regard caring activities as forms of ECA. Exceptions to this were those students who were either on courses in a caring-related field or were carers
themselves. Both of these groups saw the value of caring as a form of ECA:
I think a bit of everything. Caring and responsibilities maybe but then also sport to see whether you do stuff outside nursing. Any, all of
In terms of being a mother, just thinking, whilst she’s helped me to mature, be more responsible, and prioritise, being more organised, you have to be organised and I think I don’t go out as much either like all the other students, they party quite a lot. I don’t do that as I can’t, so I think in a way that’s a good thing, I can get more work done.
(Student 36, Female, 26, Mixed White & Black Caribbean, Christian, Psychology, FE college, 1st generation) I don’t know if you can put it into words really. You can just tell the difference. I’m more organised in a lot of ways because you have got to be organised because you have got to get up at a certain time, you’ve got to get uniforms done, this that and the other, got to be out the door by this specific time or you’re not going to get to school and I’m going to miss my bus then I’m going to be late for Uni, so everything, you get things done to a routine more, but it makes you a lot more psychologically aware in what’s going on in world as well.
(Student 12, Female, 30, White British, family home, Biomedical Science, FE college, 1st generation) However, and very importantly, despite recognising the value of caring activities, some of those who were parents stated that they would not necessarily admit to this when applying for jobs, even in a way that would refer to the skills developed through caring, feeling that employers would regard caring
responsibilities as a disadvantage and rarely an advantage:
I reckon a lot of places aren’t really going to care less about your family and your caring responsibilities. They don’t want to know. And I think it can put a lot off as well. Say oh she’s got kids she is going to be off sick when kid’s sick and so I think that can definitely go against you.
(Student 12, Female, 30, White British, family home, Biomedical Science, FE college, 1st generation) Arts, drama, and music Arts, drama and participation in musical ECA were considered relatively neutrally – they were neither of any great advantage or disadvantage. Students might put down that they had played a musical instrument to a certain high level as, again, this indicated that they were a well-rounded person. They were, in the
main, aware of particular skills that this would offer to employers:
[on applying for teaching]... drama by an absolute mile. If you can get involved in theatre do. Oh it is just so many skills that you get from it. I mean the ability to talk in a decent lucid manner is so important in an interview, in any situation, and drama really does
Faith and cultural activities Faith and cultural activities were seen differently by the students we interviewed.
Most students did not regard participation in faith activities as a form of ECA
since, like being a carer, it was simply something that you ‘just were’:
Faith... that is just, I wouldn’t class that as an extra-curricular activity for obvious reasons. I mean faith in something if you, obviously everyone has got some sort of faith whether you are atheist, Muslim, Christian, Hindu or whatever your faith might be, and that is just something that you are doing out of your own choice because you have been brought up in it and once you have been brought up with it you have got your free choice to choose and then... faith isn’t something you can just do, you either believe or you don’t.
(Student 20, Male, 20, Asian British (Pakistani), Islam, family home, Law, sixth form college, 1st generation) However, where students defined ECA as a purposeful and beneficial activity
they were significantly more likely to consider faith activities as a form of ECA:
I think extra-curricular activities are something that you can, I think they are something that you can gain something from... everything I think everything on there it gives you, you know, it gives you skills and it like, for instance I might have maybe said faith and cultural activities but that is still a skill because obviously it broadens your mind and it is still, you know, it gives you a better understanding of the world, so say you know whether you are religious or not you still learn about other people’s faiths you are more accommodating to their thoughts and beliefs and opinions and things like that it gives you, you know, more of a sense of awareness.
(Student 45, Female, 20, White British, Roman Catholic, Human Geography, sixth form college, 1st generation) This was also the case for ‘cultural’ activities – which students took to be those activities that ‘broadened the mind’ such as travel, often linked to volunteering, including international volunteering. Once again, students tended to see these forms of activity as ECA when they could see the purpose and value of
participating in them:
... she doesn’t go on and on and on about it but she does say obviously it is a Geography course and you should be thinking about travelling and you know going off to different places and obviously getting a wider view of the world. So obviously I could see that as obviously extra-curricular but I suppose it is just the time and the money, you know.
(Student 45, Female, 20, White British, Roman Catholic, Human Geography, sixth form college, 1st generation) The Higher Education Academy 55 Political activity Political activity was, almost without exception, seen as a form of ECA, but not one that would be valued by employers. Students were strongly minded that mention of participation in political activity should be avoided when applying for
The only one that’s sticking out to me would be political activities, but I’m not saying that completely maybe obviously it depends what the persons belief’s were, but I think if maybe if they were extremist or sort of people are going to raise eyebrows then part of me would think don’t put it on, but the whole point in an application is to be sort of honest about yourself, so it’s a tricky one to whether you should put it on or not.
(Student 28, Female, 20, White British, Art, FE college, not 1st generation) [on what to put on a CV]... I mean political things are always going to be dubious, but it depends what it is, if it’s, you know if you’re part of the debating team then that’s going to go on, but if you’re part of the monster raving loony party, you maybe might miss that off.