A third of university graduates are in jobs that do not need a degree, according to figures published yesterday.
Many are stacking shelves, washing dishes or working in bars, figures prepared by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) showed.
The agency said 34.4 per cent of UK students who finished their first degrees in 2004-05 and went into full-time jobs were in "non-graduate" work.
The figures come as sixth-formers await their A level results to find out if they have won places at university.
The National Union of Students said the statistics would make teenagers think twice before going to university and taking on the debt of tuition fees.
Wes Streeting, NUS vice-president, said some graduates would "work their way up" from low status jobs in their chosen careers. But he continued: "The figures are surprising. The Government is always stressing that there is no shortage of graduate jobs in this country.
"With increasing levels of student debt and the rising cost of top-up fees, most students entering higher education will want to see a financial benefit at the end of it. These figures will worry students and make them think again about whether they want to take on that debt."
From this autumn, English students will be charged top-up fees of £3,000 a year for their degree courses.
The Hesa statistics showed 65.6 per cent of university leavers in 2005 were in jobs which used their degrees. These included software designers, teachers, solicitors and retail managers.
But the other third were in non-graduate occupations, working as bar staff, kitchen assistants, secretaries, farm labourers, and factory workers, postal staff, among other jobs.
Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said: "We already know that graduates are less than half as likely to be unemployed than non graduates when looking across the economy as a whole. Recent research suggests that 18 million jobs will become vacant between 2004 and 2020, half of which will be in occupations most likely to employ graduates."