But with some careful consideration, a little forward planning and a lot of dogged determination, it is possible to find work to help pay your way through a degree course.
For women like Irene de la Mer with four children to look after, a number of home-based jobs was the answer. During her time at Sussex, she worked as a cleaner for friends, did knitting for a Brighton-based company and filled envelopes for a local art historian.
If friends or family cannot help, the answer could lie with a student employment office. 40 per cent of universities now have employment offices. As well as pointing you in the right direction for a job within the local area, most universities have a large number of campus-based jobs available, especially during holidays.
Pru Phillips, 43, a postgraduate in social psychology at the University of Sussex who is now studying for her doctorate, works as a part time assistant at the university's employment office.
She said: "If there is an employment office make an appointment and give the adviser full details of your skills and previous employment. If you have specific skills like nursing, plumbing or building it is often possible to find work.
"If you don't, you can do temping jobs although you have to be prepared for the fact that they will not pay as well as perhaps you are used to.
"If you work during term time, you have to be very disciplined so it does not impinge on your study. A lot of mature students find it difficult to fit in with family commitments.
"A better alternative, if you can afford the time, is to work full time during the holidays. There is a lot of seasonal work around in pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants.
"Finally it is worth keeping your ears and eyes open during the term as short term, one off jobs like data processing or data analysis often crop up."Reuse content