We Thought Tuition Fees Were High. Then We Looked At The Cost Of Living For Students.

cost of student living

Students looking for a degree course that won’t cost them the earth should set their sights on Edinburgh’s Heriot-Watt University, according to a new study into the cost of living at the UK’s top universities.

The major study was carried out by online cash payment provider Ukash, in order to make it easier for students to see where money goes the furthest at the UK’s top 20 universities, ahead of the UCAS applications deadline (15th January 2014). Ukash, to help students budget and control their spend more effectively, compared the cost of nine key living expenses – ranging from a pint of lager and car insurance, to tuition fees and rent.

cost of student living

The findings identified Edinburgh Heriot-Watt, Edinburgh, and St. Andrews universities as the three cheapest to attend, with students needing to pay £9,587 each year – a whopping £10,000 less than the most expensive universities identified by the study – in addition to cheaper annual gym membership, averaging £96, and free entry into events at the Students’ Union.

The University of Kent ranked fourth in the cost league table, helped by cheaper and more flexible tuition fees dependent on degree course, while a comparatively low average annual rent (£3,108) at the University of East Anglia landed it in fifth place.

The ten least expensive universities, and their total cost of living over three years, are:

1. Edinburgh Heriot-Watt University          £28,761

2. University of Edinburgh                          £31,210

3. University of St. Andrews                       £33,603

4. University of Kent                                     £35,344

5. University of East Anglia                         £41,604

6. University of Birmingham                       £41,727

7. University of Warwick                              £41,790

8. University of York                                     £42,793

9. University of Leicester                             £43,139

10. University of Lancaster                          £43,938

Students who choose to attend the most expensive top universities, including London School of Economics, University College London and Imperial College London, are likely to fork out more than double the amount being paid by those at the cheapest universities.

London School of Economics (LSE) – which ranked as the most expensive university – has an annual living cost of £19,717, compared to £9,587 at Edinburgh Heriot-Watt. Over their three-year degree course, undergraduates at LSE can expect to spend £59,152 on tuition fees and living costs.

This increased cost of living is due in particular to markedly higher annual rent (£8,710), car insurance (£1,054) and entry into student events (£120) than at all other universities.

Each of the five most expensive universities, also including Cambridge and Oxford, incur annual rent costs of over £5,000, topping £7,000 when located in London.

The ten most expensive universities, and their total cost of living over three years, are:

1. London School of Economics £59,152

2. University College London £53,954

3. Imperial College London £53,822

4. Oxford University £50,540

5. Cambridge University £47,997

6. Exeter £45,291

7. Bath £45,199

8. Durham £44,459

9. Surrey £44,264

10. Loughborough £43,965

Miranda McLean, Marketing Director at Ukash, commented on the results:

“We produced this cost comparison study for students who want to go to a top university but also don’t want it to cost the earth. We were surprised to find such staggering differences in costs, with factors such as car insurance, rent and tuition fees varying greatly depending on where you study.

“With many students needing to complete their UCAS application on or before 15th January 2014, we’ve also developed an online tool that makes it easy for students to compare the cost of living at the UK’s top 20 universities.”

Students and parents can view the full range of research data and use the interactive cost comparison tool online at