Average student rents in university halls are rising faster than student loans, according to a survey by the National Union of Students.
The survey found that the average rent in the United Kingdom rose by 4.1 per cent last year. The value of the student loan increased by 2.5 per cent. Students in halls spent an average £54.72 a week on rent - £65.38 in London - more than three-quarters of their weekly loan income.
Yet many students said cheap rent was less of a priority than good-quality accommodation. As many said they would be willing to pay between £6 and £10 a week more for better facilities, as said they would pay nothing extra.
Cheapest rents were in Wales, at £48.28, and Northern Ireland, at £48.58, more than £10 cheaper on average than rents in the south of England. The sharpest increases last year were in East Anglia, the West Midlands and the Northeast.
Of the 1 universities and colleges that responded to the survey, the University of Westminster had the most expensive rates. Self-catered, single accommodation, the most common category of room provided, cost £71.68.
This type of room cost more than £60, on average, at the University of North London, the Southampton Institute, London Guildhall University and Anglia Polytechnic University, and more than £57 at Middlesex University, King's College London, Queen Mary and Westfield College and Bournemouth and Luton universities.
The survey showed that self-catered, en-suite accommodation had expanded dramatically by 14.9 per cent within two academic years. This is believed to be the result of student demand and of anxiety by universities to cater for the conference market. Salford, Reading, Middlesex, Manchester and Loughborough universities were among the leading conference providers, each offering more than 2,200 rooms.
By contrast, nationally there were fewer than 2,000 study bedrooms that were described as suitable for people with disabilities.
The number of students reported to be living in their own or their parents' home rose by 5 per cent from 49,903 in 1998-99 to 52,543 last year.
Owain James, NUS president, said: "High accommodation cost is a major reason why students have to work during term time. Often the accommodation cost is greater than the whole student loan."