Universities around the country are offering growing numbers of jobs to their students in a bid to curb financial hardship.
Since the introduction of fees and the abolition of grants, universities have become major employers of their own students.
Institutions such as Warwick, Manchester Metropolitan and Central Lancashire, and Lancaster and Morecambe College each offer jobs to 1,000 or more students a year.
Most universities now have a job shop. About 80 student-employment offices are registered with Nases, the National Association of Student Employment Staff, and more are planned. More than 100,000 students a year find jobs through these services. Some 20,000 or more of these could be within the institutions themselves.
A lot of this work is one-off and casual. But trade unions voiced concern that ordinary workers could be losing out where jobs are more permanent.
Elaine Harrison, head of higher education at public sector union Unison, said: "I would have thought we would not be very happy about it if they were offering people work, in effect, on a permanent basis... If it is a permanent post, full-time or part-time, they should be employing full-time or part-time workers and not students."
Warwick is one of the most active universities when it comes to offering jobs to its students. Its employment agency, Unitemps, handles about 1,800 campus jobs a year as well as 200 outside the university. Warwick used to recruit temporary workers through agencies in Coventry, but now all temps are sourced through the agency.
Natalie Whyman, who has just completed a BA in law and business studies at Warwick, works in the university's public affairs office. She earns £6.03 an hour, which she says is typical. "I have been working here on an almost permanent basis while doing my degree," she said. "It is very flexible - with hours to suit me.
"With tuition fees, a lot of students need to work now, and if they can have flexible employment it makes quite a bit of difference."
Meanwhile the MMU students union job shop found employment for 2,174 students last year, of which 1,673 were found work in the university or union.
A spokesman said: "Staff say the true figure is more than double, as many students or emp-loyers don't keep them posted."
At the University of Liverpool, which has just introduced a student employment service, manager Paul Cullinan said about 200 campus-based jobs were on offer every week, including data entry, library assistant and clearing worker positions.
He said the job service acknowledged the financial difficulties faced by students, but denied it took jobs away from members of the local community.
"A student comes to study here for three to four years, so why doesn't that incorporate them as part of the local community?" he said. "Also a lot of the jobs on campus are low in terms of hours, which may not be sufficient to attract the local labour force."
Steve Bloomfield, president of Liverpool's Guild of Students, said universities could be motivated to provide jobs by wanting to help their struggling students. "Universities are not completely out of touch - they do realise that it is a lot tougher these days," he said.
Nases sampled 15 of its members asking how many jobs they handled in the academic year 2000-01.