Only one third of this year's university graduates expect to find a graduate level job when they finish their courses and those that do expect to be paid less.

The survey of 16,000 final year students, conducted by High Fliers Research in March, found that only 36 per cent of respondents expected to find a graduate job once their studies are completed.

According to the survey many final students are "gloomy" about the prospects of finding work, with many believing available graduate jobs will go to those who graduated in 2009 and have yet to find a job.

Non-vocational students with little or no work experience were found to be the least optimistic about their chances of finding a job.

The study found that a quarter of final year students are planning to stay at their universities to study post-graduate courses, eight per cent said they would find temporary or voluntary work, 16 per cent intend to take time off or travel and 14 per cent have yet to make a decision about what they will do.

Only a quarter of arts and humanities students said they expected to find a graduate job, compared with 47 per cent of IT students, 54 per cent of business or finance students and 57 per cent of engineering students. Less than half of humanities students are planning on looking for a graduate job and instead intend to take time off or do temporary work.

Around 45 per cent of university leavers said the prospects for new graduates are "very limited", the highest for 15 years. Meanwhile less than one in six are "very confident" about getting a job offer before they graduate.

Pay expectations among new graduates also fell for the second year running, with most graduates expecting to earn an average of £22,000 for their first job, down 3.1 per cent from 2008.

Martin Birchall, Managing Director of High Fliers Research, said, "Our latest survey shows that final year students due to leave UK universities this summer are just as pessimistic about their employment prospects as those who graduated twelve months ago. The recession may be officially over, but with a record number of students due to complete degrees in the coming weeks and tens of thousands of last year's graduates still looking for work, there is widespread concern on campus that competition for graduate jobs has never been fiercer.

"The research highlights that students from arts & humanities courses and those who've had little or no work experience during their time at university are the least confident about the future and expect to earn almost £50,000 less than graduates with business, finance or law degrees during their first five years of employment."