So you’ve got the grades, secured your place at uni and have even circled all the Freshers’ Week events you’re planning on going to. But how much is it all going to end up costing?
Your living expenses at uni will very much depend on where in the country you choose to study and your way of life, but, as a guide, most students spend in the region of £8,000 to £13,000 a year on living expenses, including accommodation, although you may spend more depending on your choice of abode and lifestyle. If you have some expensive hobbies, you’ll need to factor these into your budget – or be prepared to find something cheaper (or free!) to do in your spare time.
Average monthly student expenditure
The NatWest Student Living Index 2017 asked 3,407 students across 35 popular university cities how much they spend on essentials such as food, rent and bills. Here are the results for the average monthly expenditure for the students surveyed:
- Rent: £448.00
- Supermarket food shopping, toiletries and household items: £78.10
- Going out/socialising with friends: £43.30
- Household bills: £43.10
- Eating out: £34.00
- Alcohol: £28.40
- Clothes, shoes and accessories: £27.40
- Transport whilst visiting home during term time: £22.60
- Trips: £21.40
- Car – day-to-day travel: £20.70
- Public transport – day-to-day travel: £17.60
- Mobile phone bills and related costs: £15.70
- Books, course materials, printing, library costs, etc: £14.40
- On hobbies and interests: £14.00
- On academic studies (lectures, coursework, library, etc): £12.80
- Playing sports or at the gym: £10.90
- Home entertainment: £7.60
- Creative or performing arts (gallery visits, arts, photography, theatre): £3.40
- Watching sports: £2.00
- Volunteering/charity work (volunteer programmes, charity events): £1.30
- Total average monthly expenditure: £866.70
Your uni’s student union will offer cheap drinks, food and events, such as bands and club nights, but while off-campus prices are higher, you’re not going to make the most of what the local town or city has to offer if you spend all your time on campus. Excluding the teetotal students featured in the survey, the average monthly spend on alcohol was £38.61, with three Welsh destinations – Aberystwyth (£50.87), Swansea (£47.26) and Cardiff (£46.90) – appearing in the top five boozy student towns and cities, along with Plymouth (£50.18) and Newcastle (£47.60). Students in Norwich (£31.10), Cambridge (£29.76) and Canterbury (£29.34) were found to put the least behind the bar.
Your largest living expense will clearly be your accommodation, with the main options being a room in:
- a university-owned halls of residence (usually self-catering, but some are catered)
- a university-owned house/flat (eg in a student village)
- a shared house/flat, rented through the private sector
- an en suite room in a shared flat or a studio in a high-end, privately owned student residence.
If you’re renting privately, you should expect to pay a deposit of one month’s rent, which you’ll get back when you leave minus the cost of repairing or replacing any breakages from during your stay. If you’re renting in the private sector, you will also have to pay bills for your use of utilities, such as electricity, gas, water, telephone and broadband. If you live in halls or a private house/flat where everyone is a full-time student then you will be exempt from paying Council Tax, but if not the cost of this for your house or flat will need to be paid by those living there.
While the average monthly rent in the NatWest Student Living Index 2017 was £448, there was a great disparity between the rent being paid by students across the 35 towns and cities featured in the survey, with London unsurprisingly topping the list:
- London: £584.32
- Exeter: £559.94
- St Andrews: £509.44
- Birmingham: £502.35
- Brighton: £502.11
- Reading: £501.84
- Cambridge: £501.78
- Bristol: £492.53
- Oxford: £490.96
- Durham: £477.33
- Southampton: £474.70
- Coventry: £474.33
- Aberystwyth: £472.88
- Portsmouth: £463.53
- York: £455.11
- Edinburgh: £449.66
- Leicester: £448.14
- Plymouth: £443.87
- Canterbury: £435.06
- Glasgow: £433.91
- Manchester: £425.92
- Leeds: £423.35
- Nottingham: £422.09
- Aberdeen: £421.51
- Poole: £421.18
- Liverpool: £416.61
- Sheffield: £415.26
- Newcastle: £402.76
- Norwich: £401.15
- Swansea: £398.03
- Stirling: £396.79
- Cardiff: £384.23
- Hull: £372.18
- Dundee: £362.82
- Belfast: £324.96
Let’s take a closer look at the cost of university-owned and private-sector student accommodation in five of these cities:
Bristol – or ‘Brizzle’, as it is affectionately referred to by the locals – is a young and vibrant city, with an population of just over 450,000 (2016 estimate). There are two universities – the University of Bristol, located in the city centre, is home to almost 22,000 students, and the University of the West of England (UWE), which has its main campus in Frenchay, about five miles north of the centre, has over 27,700 students.
Students at the University of Bristol pay from £109.17/week (£4,585.14 for a 42-week contract) for a single room in self-catered university-owned accommodation up to £184.98/week (£7,769.16 for 42 weeks) for a room in a catered hall of residence. Prices for UWE students in university-owned accommodation start at £90.81/week (£3,814.02 for 42 weeks) for a self-catered twin room share and go up to £175.10/week (£7,529.30 for 43 weeks) for a studio in a residence run by private accommodation provider Unite Students exclusively for UWE students.
A luxury extra large studio at King Square Studios, which is open to all students and is run by student accommodation company Host, would set you back £197/week on a 51-week contract (£10,041 in total). All of these rates are inclusive of utility bills.
According to the University of Bristol, a privately rented room in a shared student house in the city will cost around £4,800 for a 52-week tenancy plus utilities. (The University estimates that electricity, gas, internet, insurance and water rates will add between £500 and £750 per person per year in a four-bed shared house.)
Birmingham is home to over 1.1 million people and five universities: Aston University, University of Birmingham, Birmingham City University, University College Birmingham and Newman University. The city also hosts major campuses of the University of Law and BPP University, making it Britain’s second largest student city.
Taking the University of Birmingham as an example, accommodation options range from a self-catered room in a flat of five students with a shared bathroom and kitchen for £85.95/week (£3,610 for 42 weeks) to an en suite room in a flat of six students with a shared kitchen and including the University’s ‘Meal Plan’ option, which allows students to eat at over 30 outlets across the campus and the Vale Student Village, for £191.33/week (£8,036 for 42 weeks).
The University also offers around 1,500 rooms in purpose-built student accommodation owned by private providers, with prices starting at £4,620 for 42 weeks. A room in a student house or a flat share in Birmingham starts at around £85/week plus utilities.
Glasgow is home to around 600,000 people and has the biggest concentration of students in Scotland, with four universities within 10 miles of the city centre. The University of Glasgow is home to over 27,000 students, with a further 21,470 studying at the University of Strathclyde. More than 16,500 students attend Glasgow Caledonian University, which was formed out of the merger of a former polytechnic and a college, while the University of the West of Scotland has over 15,500 students.
The University of Glasgow’s accommodation ranges from self-catering twin rooms for £92.47/week to catered single en suite bedrooms for £182.98/week. In the private sector, stylish en suite rooms at purpose-built student residence Tramworks start at £133/week, with studios costing up to £182/week. A room in a shared student house or flat starts at around £80/week plus utilities.
The vibrant Welsh capital is home to over 350,000 people and three universities: Cardiff University, which has over 30,000 students; Cardiff Metropolitan University, home to 12,580 students; and University of South Wales, where more than 25,000 students study.
At Cardiff University, a self-catered room with a shared bathroom costs from £99/week, while one with an en suite can cost up to £126/week. Part-catered rooms with a shared bathroom start at £112/week (£128 with an en suite), and fully catered rooms with a shared bathroom cost £135/week.
For those renting privately, a room in a student house or a flat share in Cardiff starts at around £70/week plus utilities, while en suite rooms in private student residence Eclipse start at £137/week, with a one-bed apartment setting you back £230/week (£11,730 on a 51-week contract).
The city of Belfast has a population of 295,000, making it the 15th largest city in the UK, and is home to two universities. Queen’s University Belfast was founded in 1845 and has 23,870 students spread over 250 buildings, while Ulster University is a multi-centre university with a campus in the Cathedral Quarter of Belfast, which has a specific focus on art and design and architecture.
Queen’s University’s accommodation options range from a self-catered twin room for £71/week to an en suite premium room for £123/week. In the private sector, stylish studios rooms at purpose-built student residence Botanic Studios start at £148/week for a standard studio, with a deluxe studio costing £175/week (£8,675 for a 51-week contract). A room in a shared student house or flat starts at around £65/week plus utilities.
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