One in three students is missing lectures and one in five is failing to submit study assignments because they have to work to make ends meet, a new survey has revealed.
The National Union of Students survey also found that more than three-quarters of those students working during term time felt that their studying had been affected - an eighth "badly".
It also found that two-thirds were working for less than Pounds 4 an hour and that a fifth of student employees reported health and safety problems in their workplace. NUS president Jim Murphy said that increasing hardship had forced many students to seek part-time work, often with unscrupulous employers.
Mr Murphy said: "The evidence in this report explodes the myth that students live a comfortable and cosy existence. Each statistic is a real life story of student hardship. It is an expose of the lengths to which some students have to go to survive."
The survey, by the Labour Research Department for the NUS and the GMB union, comprised 9,000 questionnaires sent to students at Birmingham, East Anglia, Leeds, East London, Manchester, Newcastle, Plymouth, Sussex and Warwick universities. The response rate was 7.3 per cent (622 students).
More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of respondents working during term time said that their employment was affecting their study, of which 12 per cent said it was affecting it badly and 1.5 per cent very badly. More than 31 per cent said they had missed lectures because of work commitments and 20.1 per cent said that they had failed to submit course work.
Though most students gave combination answers, it reveals that 42.9 per cent of the respondents said they worked during term time to cover living and study costs, 39.8 per cent said the cash was for basic living costs and 40.9 per cent said their earnings supplemented their social life. More than 37 per cent of those working during holidays said that they needed the money to pay for living and study costs.
The majority (73 per cent) of term-time workers were working more than eight hours a week with 39.6 per cent working between 12.5 and 20 hours a week. Most of the work is in the evenings, night and weekends, though 46 per cent said that they worked during the day. During vacations most were working more than 20 hours a week.