Cost of Living

It is important to budget sensibly when you are a student to ensure that you have enough money to live comfortably and complete your studies. For many students, it will be the first time they have ever had to cope with the financial restraints of daily life, which results in many getting into debt.

When you are planning your budget, it is not just your course tuition fees that you need to take into account. You also need to calculate your everyday living expenses including your food, accommodation (rent and other bills), books, equipment and clothes, making sure that you have enough left over for leisure activities and socialising. Of course the cost of living varies between different regions of the UK; London, for example, is a fairly expensive place to live, and costs may also be high in other major UK cities.

It is always difficult to know exactly how much it will cost to live comfortably in a new place and one person’s monthly budget might only last another person a couple of weeks. Although you can get a good idea of living costs, a lot depends on your own personal choices. Try to allow money to cover treats and indulgences, as well as keeping something aside for the unexpected emergencies!

It is necessary to remember that new students often have to budget for extra expenditures upon arrival at University. For example:

  • Deposit for accommodation: in the private sector this is usually the equivalent of around four weeks rent

  • Insurance for your belongings: basic cover is usually included if you are in university accommodation, but budget around £10 per month if you are in private accommodation

  • Police registration: only applicable for certain International students - £34

Most people will have to budget for the following expenses:

  • Tuition Fees

  • Accommodation

  • Groceries

  • Transport

  • Books

  • Clothes and Other Considerations

  • Entertainment

  • TV Licence

Tuition Fees

Until 2006, tuition fees for full-time courses in the U.K. varied a great deal depending on what you chose to study, and where. However, since the introduction of top-up fees in 2006, most universities can charge anything up to a fee cap which is decided by the government and increases each academic year, although not by more than the rate of inflation. For the academic year 2009/10 this fee cap is £3,225. Although this may seem a lot, the average cost of running a university course per student is actually a lot higher than this, and so the fee is heavily subsidised by the government. Most universities in the U.K. therefore charge the full £3,225, but check your course details to make sure. British students are able to apply for a loan to cover all or part of this cost.

If you live in Wales or Scotland, your fees may be slightly different. Students living in Wales looking to study at a publicly-funded Welsh university are able to apply for a non-means tested grant to cover a significant part of their tuition fees, which at the moment can be anything up to £1,940. This can reduce the cost of studying in Wales for Welsh students to £1,285. Scottish students studying in Scotland do not pay any tuition fees, whereas those studying in Scotland who live elsewhere in the U.K. pay £1,775 per year, or £2,760 for medical courses.

Students from elsewhere in the E.U. are, for tuition fee purposes, treated as home students, although check with your institution to make sure. E.U. residents looking to study in the U.K. may also be eligible for a tuition fee loan from the Student Loans Company. Fees for students from the Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or elsewhere outside of the E.U. are in most cases considerably higher, and vary according to the institution. Most universities and colleges have full details of course fees online, as well as financial support and grants available for international students.



University Accommodation

After paying your tuition fees, the biggest cost you are likely to face is the cost of accommodation. Universities usually offer accommodation for undergraduates, postgraduates and often for students with families. The rent usually includes utility bills: often it also includes internet access and personal possessions insurance. The majority of university flats are self-catered and will cost between around £80 - £100 per week.



Private Accommodation

Although many first year students decide to apply for university accommodation, there are other options available in the private sector which you might want to consider for your second year. Remember to check what your rent includes, and whether the contract dates fit in with those of your course.

The cost of privately rented accommodation can vary greatly depending on the area and the property facilities. In most areas of the UK students will pay between £220 and £350 a month for a privately rented flat. Although privately rented accommodation tends to be cheaper than university halls, utilities are often not included in the rent. You should budget at least £340 per year for utility costs such as gas and electricity.




The cheapest place to do your weekly food shop is usually a supermarket. Local markets might also offer good deals on fruit and vegetables, but some fresh produce markets are expensive. Corner shops and mini supermarkets that stay open long hours often work out more expensive than the bigger supermarkets. You can often save money by buying in bulk, buying when items are on special offer or buying the supermarket's own-brand products. Make sure you also write a shopping list and stick to it!

Cheaper supermarkets include Lidl, Aldi, ASDA and Morrisons. Iceland and Farmfoods are essentially frozen food supermarkets but they also carry non-frozen items and can be quite cheap. You should budget at least £30 -£50 per week for food.




Students should budget for any bus and train journeys, local travel cards, taxis and, if you have a car at university, petrol costs. It is often possible to get a student discount on local travel cards, but transport may still prove an expensive part of your budget. Depending on where you live, allow at least £15 a week to cover travel costs.




Most students will have to allow at least £250 per year for books. Rather than buying everything new, look out for opportunities to buy second hand books. Your university departmental notice board is a good place to start, and many universities hold regular second hand book sales throughout the academic year. Remember that you will also have to pay for your own stationery and photocopying. This is likely to cost you significantly more at certain times of the year, such as during the revision period when you need to copy books to prepare for coursework or exams.



Clothes and Other Considerations

It is important that you remember to budget for clothing as well as any essential equipment necessary for your course of study, such as a laptop or scientific supplies. You may also need to buy bed linen, towels and kitchen equipment. If your student home does not have a washing machine, you will need to budget for the cost of using a laundrette. The cost of keeping in touch with people at home should also be included in your budget, as phone calls can be expensive. Any internet and mobile phone costs must also be taken into account.




Students often forget to budget for the costs involved in their social life. If you hope to get the most out of your time at university, you will want to explore your new home town and spend time having dinner, drinks, or going to the cinema with new friends. All these things can have a big impact on your budget! A student cinema ticket usually costs around £5. Eating out can be expensive, but sometimes restaurants offer special deals in the early evening or on certain days of the week. Look out for student night offers at local bars, and check at your students' union for details of student parties.



TV Licence

If you are living in a university-owned student residence and you have a TV in your room, you will need to pay for a TV licence. If you are living in a shared property and there is only one TV in a communal area, only one license is required. However, if tenants have their own TVs in their rooms then each tenant requires a separate license, unless you have a joint tenancy agreement. A colour license currently costs £142.50 a year. It can be paid in monthly or quarterly instalments. Refunds are available on unused quarters, which can be useful if you are not using the TV during the summer vacation.