The UK’s regional student living costs revealed

The East of England is the cheapest region of the UK for students overall, with other regions coming top for cheapest transport, leisure and accommodation.
September 22 2015

The cheapest region of the UK for students has been named as the East of England, according to research by a money-saving website.

Students in the East, which includes Cambridge, Norwich and Essex, get the best deal, say the money-saving team at PromotionalCodes.org.uk.

Eleven regions were judged on the cost of catered student accommodation, nights out, alcoholic drinks and public transport, all of which drain the bank accounts of many a student.

For each region, costs were averaged across three towns with well-known universities, with the exception of London, where costs were calculated for three different universities within the capital.

Darren Williams from PromotionalCodes.org.uk said: “It’s interesting to see how much difference a postcode can make on what you shell out.

“You could be studying the same course and living in the same type of accommodation but the price difference could be over £3,000 depending on where in the UK you are.”

The results are particularly surprising given that living costs in Cambridge, for example, are generally much higher than in places such as Manchester in the North of England.

But the unexpected results can be explained by the fact that the majority of student spending goes on rent, and when considering only catered accommodation, Cambridge student rent is the lowest.

Overall, the East of England is cheaper because of both low student rent and transport costs –remarkably low for Cambridge, where most students cycle everywhere, which can cost almost nothing.

This means that life in the East of England may seem relatively cheap for a student living in college accommodation and cycling around Cambridge, but this won’t be true of everyone, and certainly not for students in Norwich or Essex, also in the East of England.

Sunderland in the North East of England was found to have the cheapest student accommodation, only £3,420 a year. The most expensive accommodation, £7,776 a year at Imperial College London, was more than double Sunderland’s.

According to the research, while public transport costs Cambridge students almost nothing, students in Oxford, South East of England, are paying on average £240 a year, despite the fact that cycling is as common in Oxford as in its rival town.

Unsurprisingly, public transport makes the biggest dent in the wallets of London students, who fork out £1,008 for an annual travel card.

Cheapest transport costs by region

Region Average annual transport costs
Wales: Bangor, Swansea, Cardiff £118
Scotland: Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow £215
North West: Lancaster, Manchester, Liverpool £215
South East: Southampton, Surrey, Oxford £242
West Midlands: Staffordshire, Warwick, Birmingham £246
Yorkshire & Humber: Leeds, York, Sheffield £251
North East: Sunderland, Newcastle, Durham £256
East Midlands: Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham £285
South West: Bath, Exeter, Bristol £321
East of England: Cambridge, Essex, Norwich £347
London: Queen Mary University, University College London, Imperial College London £1,008

Scottish and Welsh nightclubs charge the lowest rates: Dundee in Scotland apparently boasts free entry, and clubbing in Swansea, Wales, sets students back just £1 a time.

London clubs, on the other hand, charge between £7 and £15 for entry, and a single Jägerbomb can cost up to £4.50. For the same money, you could drink four and a half Jägerbombs in towns across Scotland, Wales and North West England.

Cheapest nightclub and drinks costs by region

Region Average nightclub entry Average cost of one Jägerbomb
Wales: Bangor, Swansea, Cardiff £2 £2
Scotland: Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow £3 £1
North West: Lancaster, Manchester, Liverpool £3 £1
Yorkshire & Humber: Leeds, York, Sheffield £3 £3
East Midlands: Leicester, Loughborough, Nottingham £4 £2
East of England: Cambridge, Essex, Norwich £4 £2
North East: Sunderland, Newcastle, Durham £5 £3
South West: Bath, Exeter, Bristol £5 £2
West Midlands: Staffordshire, Warwick, Birmingham £5 £2
South East: Southampton, Surrey, Oxford £5 £2
London: Queen Mary University, University College London, Imperial College London £11 £4

The East of England may be the cheapest region overall, but Sunderland in the North East is the cheapest town for students, followed by Lancaster in the North West of England and Staffordshire in the West Midlands.

In London, students are much better off at Queen Mary University of London, where catered student accommodation is cheaper than in seven university towns outside London, including Edinburgh and Glasgow in Scotland, Exeter and Bristol in the South West of England and Nottingham in the East Midlands.

Cheapest student living costs by university town

Town/University Annual student accommodation cost Nightclub entry fee Cost of Jägerbomb Annual transport costs
Sunderland (North East) £3,420 £2 £1 £280
Lancaster (North West) £4,104 £3 £1.50 £250
Staffordshire (West Midlands) £4,104 £5 £1.50 £299
Cambridge (East) £4,500 £5 £2.50 £0
Bangor (Wales) £4,360.98 £2 £1.50 £154
Southampton (South East) £4,176 £5 £1.50 £365
Dundee (Scotland) £4,509.96 £0 £1 £324
Surrey (South East) £4,752 £6 £3.50 £148
Swansea (Wales) £4,640 £1 £1.50 £300
Essex (East) £4,793.04 £3 £2 £154
Norwich (East) £4,747.68 £4 £2.50 £199
Manchester (North West) £4,968 £0.99 £1 £225
Leicester (East Midlands) £4,947.30 £5 £3 £300
Cardiff (Wales) £4,926.78 £3.50 £1 £360
Warwick (West Midlands) £5,134.00 £5 £2 £297
Liverpool (North West) £5,350.80 £5 £1 £168.60
Loughborough (East Midlands) £5,662.02 £4 £3 £270
Bath (South West) £5,700 £4 £0.99 £255
Newcastle (North East) £5,682.46 £4 £1.50 £280
Birmingham (West Midlands) £5,854 £5 £1.50 £260
Oxford (South East) £5,884 £5 £3 £240
Leeds (Yorkshire & Humber) £6,012 £5 £2 £259
York (Yorkshire & Humber) £6,080 £3 £1 £200
Queen Mary University of London £5,392.80 £7 £3.50 £1,008
Nottingham (East Midlands) £6,289 £5 £2 £199
Edinburgh (Scotland) £6,031.38 £5 £2.50 £525
Exeter (South West) £6,684.16 £5 £2 £215
Glasgow (Scotland) £6,819.54 £2 £1 £115
Sheffield (Yorkshire & Humber) £6,667.92 £3 £2 £280
Durham (North East) £6,885 £2 £2 £480
Bristol (South West) £7,524.83 £5 £2.50 £255
University College London £7,552.44 £15.00 £3 £1,008
Imperial College London £7,776 £10 £4.50 £1,008

It is clear that student living costs vary from city to city, but budgeting is also a matter of priorities, and so will vary for different people within the same city. However, the data do not take into account the proportion of students who actually live in catered accommodation in different cities, or the variations in how often students use public transport and visit clubs, or how many drinks they buy on a night out.

Nonetheless, Darren Williams has suggestions to help students everywhere save money.

“Getting a part-time job, cooking meals from scratch, using voucher codes and buying second-hand are all great tips to take on board if you’re a fresher starting out this September,” he said. 

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