Student Living Index 2016 - Student Spending | NatWest

Student Living Index 2016

The cost of living at
UK universities

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Account yet?

Portsmouth tops the Student Living Index charts as
the most cost-effective city.

What are students spending money on in 2016?

Heading off to university brings so many new experiences, but sometimes it can be hard to know what to expect. For many, university means more responsibility when it comes to planning how to spend your money and time.

To help you understand what student life is really about, we’ve created the Student Living Index. In a survey conducted by ZenithOptimedia on behalf of NatWest, we asked 2,500 students about student life in 25 popular university cities across the UK.  We wanted to find out how much they’re spending on everyday essentials such as travel, food and shopping and how they dedicate time between their studies, part time work and other interests.

Whether it’s planning your finances or working out how you’ll spend your time, take a look at the average student habits to help you get ready for life at university.

The most cost effective* universities

City Ranking
Liverpool 2nd
Newcastle 3rd
Belfast 4th
Exeter 5th
York 6th
Cardiff 7th
Nottingham 8th
Birmingham 9th
Dundee 10th
Manchester 11th
Norwich 12th
Leicester 13th
Brighton 14th
Reading 15th
Glasgow 16th
Leeds 17th
Bristol 18th
London 19th
Sheffield 20th
Plymouth 21st
Oxford 22nd
Cambridge 23rd
Edinburgh 25th

*Cost-effective rating is calculated as the average local weekly student expenditure on living and accommodation costs divided by average local weekly income for students.

Headlines from the Student Living Index 2016

Apart from accommodation, groceries were found to be the biggest expense- with the average student spending £19.78 a week.

On average, students spend at least twice as much on their grocery shop as they do on any other single expense.

When choosing a university, university fees are the main deciding factor for only 2% of students.

Subject choice and university reputation were the most important factors for 74% of prospective students.

39% of students don’t budget when it comes to managing their money.

Of those who do budget, over a third are careful to stick to their budget and keep track of their spending.

On a scale of 1 to 10, almost half of students rated themselves a 5 or above when asked how stressed they were about money, with 10 being the most stressed.

When it comes to managing money, 24% of students rated their stress level at 8, 9 or 10/10.

For the average student, the Bank of Mum and Dad provides a larger proportion of their income than term-time work and holiday work combined.

After student loans, money from parents and family is the largest source of income for students.

Students who work more hours generally spend less money.

In an average week, students spend almost 5 times longer on their studies, part-time work and hobbies than they do on socialising.

The Student Living Index in detail

How much money do students have?


Student loans are contributing £161.14 per week- four times as much as any other source- to a student’s income.

Students in Portsmouth have the highest income, with an average of £1,516.98 per term. Whereas Sheffield students have the lowest income at just £934.38 per term.

Although they receive the highest income, students in Portsmouth, Liverpool and Newcastle are the most cost effective - spending the least of their earnings on living and accommodation costs.


Students in Manchester and Belfast work the most hours but their termly income is below the national student average.

students earn the most from term time work. Students in Cambridge earn the least - which is unsurprising - as they work the least hours.

How students spend their money

Students living in Oxford and Cambridge spend the most on rent – up to £27 more per week than the average student.

Birmingham, Cambridge and Cardiff spend the least on going out, while those in Edinburgh and Belfast spend the most.

Belfast was found to be the most fashion-conscious city, with students spending more on clothes, shoes and accessories than anywhere else in the UK.

Students in Reading spend the least on household bills while those in Brighton spend the most.

Reading came out top for the most time spent on performing arts, with students spending over twice the average on hobbies such as dance and drama.

How students spend their time

Students in Sheffield, Southampton, Oxford and Exeter spend the most time pursuing hobbies and interests outside of their course.

York was found to be the most social university, with students spending an above average amount of time with their friends.

Students at Oxford and Cambridge spend the most time studying, with those at Cambridge spending an average 7 hours more per week on their studies than students at Oxford. Sheffield came in third place for time spent studying.

Students in Belfast spend the most time working part-time alongside their studies, with Manchester closely following in second place.

Add your signposting title here…

Are you currently attending university or deciding where to go? Download the 2016 Student Living Index to find out which students are spending the most on travel, and which spend the most time studying.

Download the full 2016 Student Living Index
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