By Maggie Taggart
For many students a work placement is essential
The economic downturn has hit student job placement programmes at Northern Ireland's universities.
The University of Ulster has said it will allow some students to skip placements because many businesses cannot take on students.
Queen's University said it was prepared to be more flexible about how students complete work placements.
For thousands of students every year, a work placement is an essential part of getting their degree.
But the Department of Employment and Learning has said it is aware that the economic situation will make it difficult for them to get places, particularly in the construction industry.
Both local universities have made contingency arrangements so that students do not lose out.
At the University of Ulster, if students have tried hard but failed to find a placement for September, they will be allowed to skip that requirement and go into their final year of study instead.
Queen's said it too believes there will be fewer placements on offer and said it would take a flexible approach. It may even provide jobs within the university for some students.
However, the situation is not so gloomy in further education and teacher training colleges which are not reporting much difficulty finding placements for students.
Damien McGivern head of the Careers Development Centre at the University of Ulster said students looking for a placement in the construction industry are finding it particularly tough.
"Students maybe have to look a bit more broadly for opportunities locally, nationally and even internationally," he added.