The Department for Education and Employment is undertaking the first survey of student income and spending patterns to include details of the effects of loans.
Face to face interviews are already under way and the final results, due to be published in the autumn, will comprise a nationally representative sample of 2,000 students. It is thought likely that the results will form part of the input into Sir Ron Dearing's review.
The Policy Studies Institute is carrying out the survey, which is concerned only with term time income and expenditure, and is subcontracting the interviewing process to National Opinion Polls. The last survey was carried out by Research Services Ltd in 1993, but it only touched briefly on loans because of their relative newness.
The PSI survey will include all the sources of income for students who are technically eligible for mandatory grants. It will look at the take up rates for student loans, including students' reasons for accepting or refusing to sign up for loans.
It follows a survey, published last month, which was carried out by the National Union of Students and GMB Union.
It found that students' studies were being affected by an increasing need to work to supplement their incomes.