Students starting degree courses this autumn can expect to graduate with debts of £26,000, and this will double for those beginning university next year, figures have suggested.
The annual Push Student Debt survey reveals that students joining university next month are likely to owe £26,100 by the time they finish their studies, which is around £2,000 more than the debt students who started courses last year are expected to leave with.
However, youngsters who are planning to go to university in 2012 - the first year of the tuition fee increase - could find themselves saddled with an expected debt of £53,400.
For those in England alone, where fees are estimated to average £8,630 next year, graduates should expect to finish university with average debts approaching £59,100, the survey found.
The poll, which questioned more than 2,800 students at 115 UK university campuses, calculated debt levels based on the amount students owe in terms of fees, bank accounts and credit cards, money owed to parents, universities and other debts.
A student currently at university, in any year of study, is racking up an average debt of £5,681 per year, the survey found. In England, this average debt is £5,876, in Wales it is £6,231, in Scotland it is £2,025 and in Northern Ireland £4,319.
The survey also reveals differences between universities. At eight institutions, the average projected debt on graduation for anyone studying now is over £30,000, while at 18 universities it is under £10,000.
Johnny Rich, editor of Push.co.uk, said: "The government has failed to explain how debts of over £50,000 will not cripple graduates financially, particularly given that students will need to find a quarter of that money from outside the support of the official loans system."
The National Union of Students (NUS) said it was worrying that the survey shows that almost 25% of the debt graduates are likely to have will be owed to sources other than the Student Loans Company. President Liam Burns said: "The fact that the Government thinks it's OK to hang an amount of debt equivalent to a small mortgage over someone's head while they study is one thing, but leaving young people reliant on commercial credit just to stay in education is scandalous."
A spokesman for the Department for Business Innovation and Skills said: "The majority of students will not pay £9,000 for their tuition and no first time undergraduate will have to pay up-front costs. There is also a more generous package of financial support available, including higher living cost grants, fee waivers and scholarships. Graduates will make lower monthly repayments than they do now."