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More campus job services open

They may have looked like perfectly ordinary removal men, but the trio unloading the van in a quiet Brighton street this week were possibly slightly overqualified.

All three are Sussex University students trying to make ends meet in between lectures and essays - and finding work courtesy of the campus's pioneering employment service.

When the service first opened its doors two years ago, it was the first at an English university. Now there are around 40, with similar ones opening every month.

Sussex students are limited to working 15 hours a week, at a minimum of Pounds 3.15 per hour, and around half of them - some 4,000 - are signed up with the twin services Job Shop and Unitemps. During the last academic year, they earned Pounds 1.2 million for tasks as diverse as translating, GCSE tuition, teaching people how to use business computer software, and sifting through the documentation of the winding-up of a local hotel group. "They wanted people who could apply a bit of common sense to what they were looking at," explains student employment officer John Sander.

For Neil Straughan, an MA student, his two-day-a-week job as an energy consultant was about financial necessity as much as experience. Despite doing a year's work at the end of his first degree, he still has debts of around Pounds 5,000. "The Pounds 50 a day I make doing this will really make a difference, " he said.

Debt is a subject close to the heart of many Sussex students. Sasha Hecks, a 20-year-old American Studies undergraduate, has just given up the second of two part-time jobs to keep up with her course. "I get a full grant and a full loan, and it doesn't cover anything. My rent is Pounds 195 per calendar month, without bills. I go out - but not excessively - and I'm still overdrawn. Everyone I know who is a student is in debt."

Elliott Roberts, the union's welfare vice-president, said 50 or 60 per cent of undergraduates entitled to take out student loans did so, with the average level of debt upon graduation Pounds 2,500-Pounds 3,000, higher than the national average.

Others preferred not to for ideological reasons, or worked part-time instead.

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