Student spending statistics UK 2021

Where are students spending their budgets?

With approximately 30% of the UK’s 18-year-olds being accepted to study through UCAS every year, tens of thousands of students will have to begin thinking about their finances and how they’ll manage them this school year. This includes using bank accounts specifically designed for students.

The cost of living as a student is often tight and differs drastically based on the location of your institution. We pooled together statistics on the most expensive universities, where students are spending their budgets and how they afford their lifestyles.

Quick overview

  • As of 2020, UK students spend an average of £418 per month on rent. For students living in London, this is £648 per month.
  • 58% of students reported that their mental health had suffered as a result of a low budget.
  • Students at the London School of Economics pay the highest rent, at £203 a week on average.
  • The average student receives £131.31 per month from their parents, and 74% of all students have found an extra job to help cover their bills.
  • Only 1 in every 10 students felt that they were getting value for their money during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Student living costs

Average student living costs 2020

Unsurprisingly, rent is the largest expense for students and makes up 53% of the average student’s total expenses. The second biggest expense is groceries, which comes in at £100 per month – a budget far from extravagant.

The next largest expenses are social events, transport and household bills, while one-off purchases, such as clothing and mobile phones, are treated as luxury items.

Expense Cost per month
Rent £418
Groceries £100
Going out £46
Transport £43
Household bills £37
Takeaways £33
Clothes & shopping £29
Holidays £22
Mobile phone £16
Course materials £16
Health & wellbeing £13
Gifts & charity £12
Other £10
Total £795

Average student livings costs by university

Other than rent, is London also the most expensive place for other living costs? The maintenance loan in 2020 was £572, which means that students are already on a very strict budget.

Half of the universities in the top 10 universities with the highest living costs are based either entirely or have at least one campus located in London. Despite this, students at the University of Buckingham have the highest living costs before rent, at £827 per month. See the breakdown below.

Row Labels Food Socialising Transport Bills Clothes Course materials Other Total (£)
University of Buckingham £193 £150 £133 £133 £33 £53 £129 £827
University of Law £195 £20 £75 £135 £25 £260 £100 £810
Royal Academy of Music £300 £83 £200 £37 £38 £57 £54 £769
University of Westminster £176 £50 £136 £22 £41 £35 £226 £686
Canterbury Christ Church £216 £48 £89 £86 £35 £28 £139 £639
University of Hertfordshire £171 £80 £200 £34 £43 £14 £85 £624
The Open University £191 £43 £82 £105 £41 £16 £105 £584
University of Derby £208 £19 £56 £145 £40 £20 £97 £584
University of Greenwich £151 £59 £128 £55 £58 £34 £87 £571
University of Glasgow £156 £59 £52 £57 £31 £18 £151 £522

Student accommodation costs

University accommodation costs by region

With over half of their budget being spent on rent, accommodation costs can put a big dent in a student’s budget. University accommodation costs vary based on region, as shown below.

It comes as no surprise that the greatest average accommodation cost is for London universities, where accommodation costs an average £933 per month. This is followed by universities in the South West, South East and Scotland. Accommodation costs over £800 per month in these regions. Over a three-year course, living in the cheapest region (Wales) will save you £7,452 compared to the most expensive region (London).

Region Accommodation cost
London £933
South West £848
Yorshire and the Humber £737
Scotland £825
West Midlands £726
North East £756
East Midlands £781
South East £814
North West £737
East of England £777
Wales £742

The universities with the highest accommodation fees

When choosing a university, the cost of attending can be a big factor. Students of the London School of Economics pay the most rent of all UK students. Students here fork out £10,556 per year or £203 per week on average. Of the top ten most expensive universities for rent, eight are located in London.

This is of course affected by the accommodation type, as some students live in student halls, while others live in apartments or rooms not provided by student housing.

Row Labels Average weekly rent Average yearly rent
The London School of Economics £203 £10,556
Birkbeck, University of London £185 £9,620
University of West London £183 £9,516
University of Gloucestershire £180 £9,360
University of the Arts London £177 £9,204
King's College London £174 £9,048
University College London £173 £8,996
Goldsmiths University £173 £8,996
City, University of London £172 £8,944
Oxford University £169 £8,788

How students fund themselves

71% of students worry about making ends meet, but luckily, a few (68%) are getting some extra funds from their parents. Most students get their income from the maintenance loan and part-time jobs. The majority of students will find themselves using a combination of sources, as the maintenance loan often doesn’t cover all student living costs.

Source of income Percentage of students
Student loan 74%
Part-time jobs 74%
Parents 68%
Savings and investments 50%
Grants and funding 44%
Bank overdrafts 38%
Surveys 31%
Friends 17%
Credit cards 15%
Working for themselves 6%
Gambling 6%
Adult work 4%
Payday loans 3%
Drug trials 2%
Cryptocurrency 2%

Student shopping

What students are shopping for online

The graph below shows the products that students purchase online in one month. Unsurprisingly, clothes and accessories were the most popular items for students to purchase online. The next most popular items were tech and mobile devices, which almost a third (32%) of students bought online in a month.

Products Percentage of people
Clothes and accessories 64%
Tech and mobile 32%
Study supplies and stationary 31%
Health and beauty 30%
Going out 28%

Reasons students wouldn’t buy something

The financial burden is not the only reason that students wouldn’t buy something; the ethics and sustainability of their purchases is also very important. Two-thirds (66%) of students refused to buy a product if it had been tested on animals. Over half (55%) of students also wouldn’t buy a product if they knew the staff making it were working in poor conditions.

Reasons why students wouldn't buy certain products Percentage who agreed
Testing on animals 66%
Poor working conditions for staff 55%
Unsustainable production 49%
Underpaying staff 45%
Not all packaging was recyclable 33%


Save the Student
Times Higher Education

Click here for more research. For all media enquiries, please contact:

Matt Mckenna
UK communications manager
T: +44 20 8191 8806

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