Students & Graduates

Student Living Index 2020

Fancy some insider knowledge on student life?

No two university experiences are the same, but getting an idea of what to expect can help you prepare for a big life change. Now in its seventh year, our student survey offers vital insights if you're heading to university in 2020.

How has Covid-19 affected students in the UK?

The implications of the pandemic for students and higher education as a whole have been huge. Students in this year’s index shared some of the impacts it's had on their lives and rate the responses of their universities.

During the pandemic..

of students felt supported by their university

1 in 4
believe their studies have been negatively impacted

1 in 10
think they're getting value for money

have been offered a rent break by their landlord

Which university is right for you?

Doing your research

Heading to university for the first time can be exciting but scary. Research is the key to making sure you're ready for this next chapter. Your plans to visit student cities this year might have been put on hold during lockdown and reading up online can only get you so far. You need the insider knowledge, which is where the Student Living Index can help. 


Working out the costs

For the seventh year in a row, we published data to shed light on what it’s really like to be a university student. This year we asked 2,806 students across 29 university cities how much they spend on essentials, their budgeting methods and how they manage their time between socialising and studying.

Which UK city is most affordable* for students?

Manchester overtakes Cardiff (2019) to become the most cost-effective city for students.
*Affordability is calculated by dividing students’ average monthly accommodation, activities and item costs by their average monthly income.

How are students spending their money in 2020?

Who spends the most on a night out? Which students are able to save a little each month? Discover more about how students spend their money in some of the most popular university cities across the UK.



Students continue to be most reliant on student loans to fund their living expenses, with 61% using student finance to cover their monthly rent. This year's index indicates fewer students are running out of money before the term ends, with 33% having money troubles compared with 43% in 2019. As a result, reliance on parental support has also fallen, with 39% of students relying on financial help from their family to supplement their term-time income. On average, students are receiving £192.50 from their family each term, down from £222 last year.


Across the UK, the biggest expense facing students is their rent, followed by supermarket shopping. There is some good news, as average rent costs decreased by 10% across the UK over the last year. Students in London are spending the least time socialising, but spend the most money on clothes, shoes and accessories, at twice the national average. The remainder of students' money is mainly being used to fund social activities, going out and travel.


As far as money management goes, two thirds of UK students try to budget, even if they sometimes fall off track. When it comes to flexibility, the majority of students don’t want to give up the fun side of uni, reflected in their monthly spend on hobbies and social activities.

Studying vs. socialising

Students are dedicating more time to their academic studies in 2020 but they're also socialising more. On average, students are studying for 98.2 hours each month, a year-on-year increase of 17 hours. They're also socialising for an additional hour each month compared with 2019, while two in three students spend no time in part time work, contributing to the rise in time spent studying and socialising.

Part-time Employment

For the second consecutive year, students have been gradually dedicating less time to part-time work each month, with this year's figure standing at almost 13 hours. Students in Belfast, London and Glasgow spend the most time on part-time work with almost 22, 19, and 18 hours respectively, all well above the national average. That said, in Irish and Scottish cities students are 32% less reliant on student loans than the UK average.

Mental health, wellbeing and sustainability

This year's survey also reveals how students feel their universities are dealing with other key issues, mental health and wellbeing and sustainability.

Mental Health & Wellbeing

This year's index reveals that universities are making gradual progress when it comes to supporting the mental wellbeing of their students, although the availability and affordability of wellbeing programmes could be improved.


More than one in four students agree that their university actively promotes sustainability on campus, with Nottingham leading the way. This is a slight increase from 2019, although just 6% agree their university is extremely committed to promoting sustainability on campus, so there is still work to be done.

Download the Student Living Index 2020

Already at uni or still deciding where to go? Download the 2020 Student Living Index to find out which students are spending the most on their daily coffee, and which students are socialising the most.

We could help you manage your finances

We understand the current circumstances can add pressure on student budgets. Our introduction to student finance could help you find out more about the financial support that might be available to you.

Need a student bank account?

Choose 1 of our 3 great offers to make student life just that little bit easier.

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