Working in the UK

Working while studying

As nearly all of our teaching takes place in the evening, Birkbeck students can work part-time during the day. Not only does this help you to manage your finances while you are studying, but it also enables you to gain experience of the UK workplace and working practices. 

Tier 4 visa restrictions

  • Tier 4 (General) Student visa permits students to work while studying in the UK. The restrictions are stated in your visa, which usually includes one of the following:
    • You require no resource to public funds.
    • You will undertake work/business as per Tier 4 rules.
    • You can work a maximum of 20 hours in term-time.
    • You can work a maximum of 10 hours in term-time.
    • You are able to work as authorised by the Secretary of State.

How many hours a week can I work during term time and the vacations?

  • If your programme is degree-level or above (ie Bachelor's or Master's or Research degree), you are permitted to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during term-time. If your programme is below degree-level, you are permitted to work a maximum of 10 hours per week during term-time, but you can work full-time during vacations. 
  • Non-EEA nationals who hold another type of visa should ensure that they abide by any restrictions indicated on their visa.

Working in the United Kingdom

  • If you are in the UK as a student visitor or visitor, you are not permitted to work. This includes paid or unpaid work and work placements. 
  • Although as a student you can take most kinds of work, you must not:
    • be self-employed or undertake business activity
    • be employed as a professional sportsperson or sports coach 
    • be employed as an entertainer 
    • take a permanent full-time job 
    • work as a doctor or dentist in training. 
  • Full-time undergraduate and postgraduate study at Birkbeck is intensive. To be sure that your studies won't suffer, please talk to your course tutor if you are thinking about working during the day while studying in the evening at Birkbeck. 

Definition of term-time

  • It is important to note that 'term-time' is any period when you are supposed to be doing academic work: when you should be attending lectures, preparing for examinations or a viva, doing coursework, and writing essays, a dissertation or a thesis.
  • Vacation is usually around Christmas and Easter holidays and during the summer, after completing all your examinations and/or submission of your dissertation. Find out more about term dates.
  • Postgraduate students are usually permitted to work a maximum of 20 hours per week during the summer, though there are exceptions.

Careers support for international students

  • Many international students plan to work in the UK either during their studies or following graduation. Contact our Careers and Employability Service for more information working in the UK, during your studies and after you graduate. 

Do I need a National Insurance number? How can I get one?

  • A National Insurance number is unique to you and is used to make sure that the National Insurance contributions and tax you pay are properly recorded against your name. 
  • You don’t need a National Insurance number to look for jobs, but once you are offered a job you must telephone the National Insurance number application line to apply for one.
  • You can start working while waiting for your National Insurance number. As soon as you have been notified of your permanent National Insurance number, you should inform your employer. 

What do I do if I'm asked about my UCAS tariff points in an application?

  • When dealing with an application form, you can contact the company requesting advice on how to fill this section, or use the spaces provided for additional information to explain the matter. A sensible option is to list your qualifications and grades providing a context and explanation for them.

How can I present an academic and professional non-UK background to UK employers?

  • Some large employers will provide information on this point on their recruitment pages - it is worth checking their website for any guidelines on this point. However, other companies might not be familiar with your qualifications or know their UK equivalents.

Working after you complete your studies

If you want to remain in the UK to work after you have completed your studies, there are a number of visa options that may be available to you. 

Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

  • The Graduate Entrepreneur scheme is aimed at recent graduates with 'genuine and credible business ideas and entrepreneurial skills'. You must be endorsed by a UK higher education institution that is an official endorsing body for the scheme.
  • Birkbeck does not participate in this scheme. However, if eligible, you can approach any other participating UK institutions for endorsement. 

Tier 2 (General)

  • If you are a recent graduate (with a BA/BSc, MA/MSc/MFA or PhD), you may be able to apply under the new provision of the Tier 2 (General) route. In order to qualify, you need to satisfy the following:
    • you have obtained the relevant qualification 
    • you are in the UK with a current student visa 
    • you have a job offer from an employer who holds a Tier 2 Sponsor License 
    • you have a salary of at least £20,800 (£25,000 for certain applicants), or the minimum appropriate rate set out in the relevant Code of Practice, whichever is the higher. 
  • If you are a PhD student you can switch into this route from Tier 4 if you have completed at least 12 months of study.
  • All other students must have completed their studies and have been awarded their qualification. 
  • For further information, please read the Tier 2 policy guidance

Tier 4 (Doctorate Extension Scheme)

  • From 6 April 2013, students completing a PhD at Birkbeck can apply to stay in the UK on a Tier 4 visa for 12 months after they complete their course, under the Doctorate Extension Scheme (DES).
  • How to apply:
    • You need a Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies (CAS) from Birkbeck.
    • You must hold a Tier 4 student visa to study a course that leads to the award of a PhD qualification.
    • You must apply from within the UK.
    • You must apply before completing the course (up to 60 days before the award of PhD).
    • You will be required to provide evidence of funds.
  • Conditions of the scheme 
    • You will be required to keep in contact with the College during this period.
    • You can work full-time from the date you are awarded your PhD
    • If you do not obtain the PhD-level qualification, you will not be able to use the DES visa and your Tier 4 visa will be curtailed. 
    • If you would like to apply for this scheme, please complete and return a DES-CAS request form.