UK student cost-of-living index 2023

With A level and IB results now confirmed, international students and home students are looking ahead to secure accommodation, set up student finances and bank accounts. A new student cost of living survey from Natwest bank shows the most and least expensive places to study in the UK.

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Having overcome the hurdles of studying for A levels and IB Diplomas, waiting for the results and confirmation of university admission, for the 200,000 or so new undergraduates starting UK universities in September 2023, thoughts are now turning to how they will live and budget as a student.

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Accommodation costs rise by a third

Natwest surveyed the spending habits of 3,052 students in the UK to compile its Student Living Index. Calculating students’ income from loans and part-time work, and expenditure on accommodation, groceries and the price of a pint, the index highlights the most and least affordable places to study.Among the headline figures is analysis showing average student monthly rents have risen 30% since 2022. The national average monthly rent now stands at £591.90. London is the most expensive city in the UK for students to rent, with an average cost of £840.30 per month.While the cost-of-living crisis is easing slightly after UK inflation and energy price growth both dipped in recent months, supermarket spend continues to be the second biggest outlay for students outside of rent. Monthly spend is up by 44% year-on-year, rising to £109.57 each month.

Most and least expensive cities for students

Overall, Edinburgh came out as the most expensive place in the UK for students to live. Students have a monthly term-time income of £1,453 in Scotland’s capital city, the lowest of all the cities ranked, while their total monthly spending stands at £1,072.61. Students in Edinburgh are also working more in part-time jobs and it is the only city to see an increase in part-time working hours of students when compared to 2022.In contrast to Edinburgh, Bournemouth tops the list of UK cities as the most affordable, taking the top spot from Cardiff. Higher-than-average term-time incomes contributed to Bournemouth being named the most affordable student location.  London is the most expensive place for a pint, with students expecting to pay £5.51 per drink, followed by Cambridge with an expected average cost of £5.07. This contrasts with Lancaster, where students can expect to pay just £3.81.

Social activities and shopping impacted most by rising cost of living

Nearly half of students (46%) have found themselves running out of money by the end of term – up from 35% in 2022. Almost one in four students (24%) said they found managing their money stressful – an increase of 29% compared to last year. This is most pronounced in Bournemouth.In a sign that the cost-of-living squeeze is starting to hit home, students are spending an average of 24% less on going out than the previous year.Some 40% felt their university offered no support to help them with the cost-of-living crisis, up from a quarter in 2022. Bournemouth had the highest number of students who felt they had no support from their university at 58%, compared to 16% of students in Lancaster.Nine in ten students (90%) said they had made changes to their lifestyle to live within their budgets. That number jumps to 96% in Glasgow, Bournemouth and Cardiff.Reducing the number of items bought online is the biggest change that students have made to live within their budgets in the last academic year, at 67%. While 51% of students said they’d reduced the number of nights out they go on. More than three in ten (34%) said they had reduced the number of meals they eat per day.While the majority of students haven’t considered leaving or ending their course early due to financial difficulties, it is something on their minds, says Natwest. One in five (21%) said they had considered it but would find a way to manage, while 29% said it was a concern for them.Jaimala Patel, Head of NatWest Student Accounts, said: “An increased reliance on student loans and double-digit increases in spending on food shopping and rent is having a real impact on student finances. There are some reassuring signs that students feel far more comfortable budgeting than in previous years, and they are taking steps to live within their means.”

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