As you can see on this page, microsoft is giving some of its products (visual studio, xna, windows server) to the students in UK for free. I've learned from Euan from our games project. I've already got those products thanks to MSDN membership of my university in Izmir, and many universities do.
An article I've read on 'Joel on software' claims that microsoft indeed would love to give its development products for free. Because the value of an operating system is dependent on the various software it has on it, and windows (with office) is the flagship product of microsoft. -- not visual studio --
I've never thought about it this way, and it really sounds smart.