Business Correspondent, BBC News
There are not many summer jobs on the horizon
The chances of getting summer work this year are the worst in living memory, student leaders warn.
The National Union of Students says that young people, both students and school leavers, will find a squeeze on holiday jobs because of the downturn.
Lack of money could be disastrous for students who are already heavily in debt and rely on summer earnings to finance their studies.
The NUS says students could be forced to drop out as their finances are hit.
"The summer jobs market is the worst we have seen," says Aaron Porter from the NUS.
"In some of the really extreme cases we'll see students having to drop out of university when they return," he adds.
At Sussex University, just outside Brighton, students have just finished their exams and they're starting to worry about not having an income for the next three months.
"It's really difficult to find jobs at the moment," says Peter Richmond, who has just finished his second year of Theoretical Physics.
"I've handed out 20 CVs and I haven't received a reply from any of them."
Brighton is traditionally a hotspot for summer jobs, with plenty of bar and restaurant work on the seafront and a large number of call centres and technology businesses.
There are 32,000 students at the two universities in the area and many of them stick around over the summer to make a little money.
But this year, companies have been shedding workers and there are fewer casual jobs.
Students are having to compete with 3,000 jobseekers who have joined the dole queue since last summer and 2,400 school leavers who are entering the job market.
"We are turning a lot of people down," says Jo Clarke from the Due South restaurant.
"There are just too many applications."
The restaurant has advertised for casual workers to help with food stalls at summer festivals, so it has been overwhelmed by jobseekers who have been unsuccessful elsewhere.
The situation could well get worse, according to Simon Royston, who runs Brighton's Red Flag recruitment agency.
If you really want a job this summer you need to get moving quickly
Simon Royston, Red Flag recruitment agency
He is worried that students who take a break and then start looking for work in a few weeks time will find that they are too late.
"If you really want a job this summer you need to get moving quickly," Mr Royston warns.
There are still vacancies on the wall in Sussex University's careers office, for sports camp helpers, language teachers and office workers, along with some unpaid placements.
But most opportunities were snapped up in April and May.
The employment liaison manager, Andrea Wall, wants students to stay positive.
"Applications need to be sharper; they need to be more relevant and targeted," she advises.
Call for help
The National Union of Students is calling on the government and universities to provide more bursaries to help those who end up in financial trouble.
"Some are not sure how they will be able to afford their accommodation, the first month's rent or the deposit," says Mr Porter from the NUS.
"They are even worrying about the train fare to get back to university."
Students across the UK are facing the same challenge as those in Brighton.
Most of the 2.4 million studying at university look for paid work in the summer.
"We'll be eating beans straight out of the can," jokes Carmen Straker, studying psychology at Brighton University, "We'll have to scrimp and save."