By Hope Talbot, First Year History
In light of recent controversy, Epigram weighs in on the 24-hours-in-a-day debate through a discussion of inequality at university and the impact of financial struggle while studying for a degree.
Now a much beloved meme and overcrowded with opinion pieces galore, an interview by influencer and multi-millionaire Molly-Mae Hague has gone viral. Being interviewed on ‘The Diary of a CEO’ podcast, Molly-Mae chastised her followers for not using their time effectively, stating that we all have ‘the same 24 hours in a day as Beyonce’. Throughout the rest of the podcast, Hague paints herself as an extraordinary hard worker who pushed herself beyond her ‘ordinary’ upbringing.
Following the podcast, critics began to weigh in, making ample comparisons between Molly-Mae’s comments and classic conversative rhetoric. Some even went as far as to compare Hague to Margaret Thatcher, and the hyper-capitalist idea of ‘pulling yourself up by your bootstraps.’ While all the criticisms levied at Hague still stand, what seems to really lie at the centre of Molly-Mae’s perspective, and her ideas on how and why we work, is an assumption of choice.
In keeping with her ‘same 24 hours in a day’ perspective, Hague suggests throughout the interview that ‘if you want something enough, you can achieve it’. However, what becomes apparent, particularly in the context of University and student life, is that no matter how much you measure what wanting something ‘enough’ is, there are barriers that cannot be overcome simply by want. Regardless of all students having ‘the same 24 hours in a day,’ these hours look very different, and vary widely amongst the student population.
Although general university guidance suggests students work no more than 15 hours per week during term time, rises in costs of accommodation and private rent make this a difficult standard to uphold, particularly for working class students. According to a survey by NUS, rent for halls of residence in the UK has risen by 60 per cent over the last decade, reaching an average of £7347 per year. Similarly, the survey also recorded that half of all students struggle to pay rent, with many feeling a part-time job is a ‘necessity’ rather than optional to continue to afford rent.
"Half of all students struggle to pay rent, with many feeling a part-time job is a ‘necessity’ rather than optional to continue to afford rent."
While costs of University accommodation continue to weigh in on how students spend their time, it can similarly be difficult for students to divorce their studies from caring responsibilities prior to University. For Sarah, a first year History student at the University of Bristol, the transition from caring for her disabled mother to coming to university has been especially difficult: ‘While my Dad has taken over much of my mum’s caring responsibilities, I have still had to travel home frequently when my mum’s health has gotten worse. Having that, on top of my first term at uni, has definitely been a struggle that I don’t think many of my course mates relate to or experience.’ While many students continue to care for parents and family members, students also support family members financially while at university, sending money home from their student loans and part-time jobs.
With this time inequality in mind, it is worth asking questions of how this affects students’ ability to perform at university, and their progress after. While statistics remain foggy on this, it is worth recognising the fact that many graduate opportunities and internships rely on the premise of unpaid work. In a survey by Prospects UK, almost 9000 people aged 16-25 years old were asked about types of work they had undertaken in order to further their career prospects; 48 per cent of these individuals had completed an unpaid internship, with just 17 per cent of this being paid work experience. This opens up a vast swath of inequality for students unable to complete unpaid internships, with travel costs and expenses rarely covered under these schemes, acting as crucial barriers to working class student participation. Similarly, much of these opportunities rely on ‘industry connections,’ the likes of which are near impossible for working class students to garner.
Beyond Molly-Mae, influencers continue to uphold impossible standards of work and time management, particularly in the realm of student influencers and study-tubers. In recent years, study based youtubers, or study-tubers, have gained immense popularity, providing insight into the inner lives of students and their routines. Whilst on its surface, study-tubers provide viewpoints rarely given by Russell Group institutions, they also have a tendency to set impossible standards of work and productivity, with some youtubers prompting 12+ hour days of study.
"Influencers continue to uphold impossible standards of work and time management, particularly in the realm of student influencers and study-tubers."
When applied to a university context, Hague’s perspective on work and labour continues to revolve around ideas of choice and assumption of stability. While many students come to University without a need for part-time jobs or wider responsibilities to family members, this is not the universal experience and should not be marketed as such. While many of us strive to achieve the same ‘success’, in the form of grades and opportunities beyond university, this is not simply gained from choice or desire but through an immense amount of circumstance and luck. For many, it is simply impossible to undertake the same time commitments that upper and middle class students can, and much of this is directly tied to wealth and prior socio-economic contexts.
While yes, many services within the University function to alleviate this inequality, there similarly needs to be an acceptance and understanding that paths to success are not equal for all students. While we may all have ‘the same 24 hours in a day’, for working class students and carers, these hours are whittled down and predetermined long before they get a choice over how and what they spend their time on.
Featured Image: Epigram | Cameron Scheijde