VUB student investigates effect of job quality on study performance

Better student jobs bring more satisfaction and less negative effects on academic results

Students are increasingly taking on jobs while they are at university, including many VUB students. Since a relaxation of the regulations on student work in 2017, the number of hours of student work and the number of students with one or more jobs has steadily increased. In 2019 - before the coronavirus pandemic - more than half a million students were working. While the quality of work is an increasingly important issue for ’regular’ employees and the self-employed, little is known about the quality of student work. However, low-quality jobs can also have negative consequences for students. This is what the master’s thesis research by VUB student Zakaria Ouaday shows.

Some students take on a job to earn extra pocket money, others do it to pay for their studies or even to supplement their family’s income. But not all student jobs are of equal quality. Ouaday, as part of his sociology master’s thesis, investigated the quality of jobs among Flemish students. By means of an online questionnaire disseminated through social media, a newspaper article and some higher education institutions, he collected data from more than 400 students.

The research defined a high-quality job as one with interesting content (autonomy, learning opportunities), healthy working conditions (little time pressure, no emotional strain such as angry customers, no excessive physical strain), favourable employment conditions (regular hours, good pay, job security) and favourable social relationships (support from manager and colleagues). Ouaday was interested in the impact of these characteristics on students’ job satisfaction, but also on the extent to which students themselves felt their job had a negative impact on their study performance. He also investigated the relationship between the quality of the job and background characteristics, such as the students’ field of study, their parents’ education level and their migration background.

Migration background influences job satisfaction and school performance

Firstly, both the parents’ education levels and a student’s migration background play a role in the degree of satisfaction with the job, but also in the extent to which students experience a negative impact on their academic performance. More specifically, the children of parents without a higher education diploma are less satisfied with their student job than children of parents with a higher education diploma, and at the same time more often experience a negative influence from their job on their academic performance. The same applied to students whose parents both migrated to Belgium, compared to students without a migration background.

Secondly, the research shows that the quality of a job has a positive influence on the satisfaction of students with their job. In other words: jobs with favourable working conditions, interesting content, good employment conditions and good social relations on the shop floor lead to higher satisfaction. But there is more: jobs with less favourable working conditions and especially jobs characterised by a lack of support from the supervisor and colleagues have, according to the students, a negative influence on their school performance.

Finally, it is striking that even after statistically correcting for differences in job quality between the socio-economic groups, students with lower-educated parents and students with a migrant background still show lower job satisfaction and more negative influence on their study performance.



"The differences in the job quality of student jobs affect the satisfaction of students with their job and the extent to which they feel that the job has a negative influence on their study results. It is striking that the children of less educated parents or parents with a migration background are less positive about their student job and expect more negative consequences for their academic results," concludes Ouaday.



Table 1. Stepwise multivariate linear regression analysis: Beta estimates and standard error for associations with perceived negative effects on school outcomes (N=414).

Migration background (Ref = none) Parents with diploma (Ref = both) *** p. < 0.001; ** p. < 0.01; * p. < 0.05; Table 2. Stepwise multivariate linear regression analysis: Beta estimates and standard error for associations with perceived negative effects on school outcomes (N=278).

Migration background (Ref = none) Parents with diploma (Ref = both) *** p. < 0.001; ** p. < 0.01; * p. < 0.05; Working conditions_ip = Working conditions inversely proportional; Employment conditions_exp = Working conditions exponentially Lies Feron Persrelaties Vrije Universiteit Brussel Lies Feron Persrelaties Vrije Universiteit Brussel Vrije Universiteit Brussel is an internationally oriented university in Brussels, the heart of Europe. By providing excellent research and education on a human scale, VUB wants to make an active and committed contribution to a better society.

The World Needs You The Vrije Universiteit Brussel assumes its scientific and social responsibility with love and decisiveness. That’s why VUB launched the platform De Wereld Heeft Je Nodig - The World Needs You, which brings together ideas, actions and projects based on six Ps. The first P stands for People , because that’s what it’s all about: giving people equal opportunities, prosperity, welfare, respect. Peace is about fighting injustice, big and small, in the world. Prosperity combats poverty and inequality. Planet stands for actions on biodiversity, climate, air quality, animal rights... With Partnership , VUB is looking for joint actions to make the world a better place. The sixth and last P is for Poincaré , the French philosopher Henri Poincaré, from whom VUB derives its motto that thinking should submit to nothing except the facts themselves. VUB is an ’urban engaged university’, strongly anchored in Brussels and Europe and working according to the principles of free research.

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