Students are accumulating less debt at university than in the recent past, although those from lower income groups leave owing significantly more.
The latest Student Income and Expenditure Survey (SIES) found average final year debt in 2004/2005 had decreased by 14 per cent to £7,918, compared to a similar, smaller survey carried out in 2002/2003 recording £8,666.
However, the children of more affluent parents finished their degrees with an average £3,000 less to pay back on starting work.
But perhaps more surprising than owing less is that last year's students appear to have worked harder, more than half (56 per cent) supplementing their student loans with earned income through part time work
Total average income increased by 46 per cent compared with 1998/1999, while students spent 15 per cent less on annual entertainment and alcohol, just £1,283 a year.
A more cautious, responsible mindset may have been fuelled by a 25 per cent rise in living costs, although students were also found to be splashing out more on escaping from their books with foreign breaks.
Higher education minister, Bill Rammell, said the survey showed a general trend of more students "managing their money carefully at university" in the knowledge that it was an investment.
Around 80 per cent of students said that the benefits of a university education outweighed the costs, while the number taking out student loans increased from 72 per cent to 79 per cent.
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