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The basics
THE UK: Student Finances - Must read

Student cost of living in the UK

Read our guide to living costs for students studying in the UK...

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With some of the top universities in the world, celebrated cultural attractions, entertainment and work opportunities, the UK ranks fairly highly on many international students’ list of study abroad destinations. While the UK undoubtedly offers a great deal to students, there is no point in shying away from one of the ever-present realities of studying abroad. Yes, that’s right, the dreaded “What’s the price?”. Being pragmatic about the effect studying in a particular country will have on your wallet, purse, coin jar and bank account can’t be overlooked.

We’ve done a thorough investigation and analysed all the costs associated with choosing to study in the UK. The figures represent an average and may vary according to where you are studying, the type of accommodation you choose, as well as your lifestyle. The facts and numbers presented are to be considered as a general guideline. Top of mind for the majority of students, and one that can really affect a study abroad adventure, is having somewhere to live. That’s what we place under the microscope first.




When studying in the UK students have a variety of accommodation options to select from. This means that costs can differ quite considerably depending on the type of accommodation. In addition, London generally has a higher cost of living than other cities and towns in the UK. With the aforementioned in mind, we’ve taken a look at the two main accommodation types available to students, namely university residences and private housing. This has been further divided into the average costs in London and for other locations in the UK.


University residences


The majority of universities and institutions in the UK give students the option of living on campus in halls of residence or in university accommodation located within a reasonable distance from campus. The accommodation available can differ from shared rooms in halls of residence to private rooms with en suite bathrooms. In addition, some of the residences will provide catering, which is built into the cost, meaning students won’t have to stress too much about grocery shopping and food bills.


However, in some cases the accommodation is self-catering with shared kitchen facilities, requiring students to dust off the recipe books and head to the shops for provisions. We know this may also mean a takeaway or two. Another benefit is that utility costs, such as energy and water are generally included in the overall cost of staying in residence accommodation.



Private rentals


Students have the choice of renting a flat or house while studying in the UK. A critical point to bear in mind is that leases for rented accommodation, even short-term agreements, are predominantly structured over 52-weeks, while university terms generally run over 38 to 42 weeks. One of the ways to ease and manage costs is to enter into a flat/house share agreement with other students. Not only is this a way to save some money, it’s also a good opportunity to meet new people and get to know fellow students.


There are additional costs to consider when renting privately, such as utility bills for energy and water, WiFi, food and travel. Sometimes there is the possibility of having utility bills included in the overall rent at a flat rate, which works out cheaper and will allow for peace of mind when turning up the heating during the colder autumn/winter months.


A factor that cannot be omitted when discussing private rental is council tax, often cited as a cause of headaches. Council tax in the UK is charged by the local authority for services such as refuse collection, waste management and maintenance. The tax is calculated on the basis of the valuation of a property in relation to the associated tax bracket for the council. The good news is that there are council tax exemptions for students that may mean only paying a minimal amount and in some cases nothing at all. Students should ensure that they contact the local council to apply and verify that they qualify for such discounts.  



*Utility bills (water and electricity) average at about GBP 45 per month in London.

*Utility bills (water and electricity) average at about GBP 40 per month in other cities.


Living costs

Setting up in a new country not only means adventure and novel experiences but unfortunately also some unavoidable living costs.  These include food, transport, entertainment, connectivity and those small incidental costs that always have a way of chipping away at the budget. 




Stereotypes of the typical student diet abound, but it’s not all about instant noodles and two-day-old pizza. For those living in catered university accommodation, things may be slightly simpler, however, it's inevitable that a visit to the grocery store is on the cards.


Students who are catering for themselves are faced with a litany of choices, both with where to shop and with what to buy. A useful tip is to create a meal plan and schedule that allows for a clear priority shopping list, helping to avoid impulse and convenience purchases that inevitably drain your budget.


Students can also buy certain staples, for example, milk and tinned goods, in bulk which often means saving those much-needed pennies. Keeping an eye on various special offers, especially online, from certain retailers who provide a delivery service.


A good way of keeping your bank account in decent shape is to shop at larger stores or online, rather than the express and convenience stores, which tend to be more expensive. The temptation to buy some luxury items and eating out exists, but being conscious of the price will prevent expenses from spiralling out of control.




Getting around quickly, efficiently and at a reasonable cost is imperative for students. Transport costs do differ from city to city and are also dependent on the form of transport that is used. The cheapest way to get around, apart from walking and cycling, is the bus followed by trains. Students qualify for discounts and special rates for both, for example getting a 16-25 railcard will reduce train fares by up to a third and add up to almost GBP 200 savings per year.

Taxi and cab services can be fairly expensive and aren’t the best way to get around when you’re on a budget. Most cities in the UK have a transport system that makes use of travel cards of various types. Some cards work on a pay-as-you-go model with each journey deducting credit from the overall balance, like the Oyster Card in London. The charges per journey can depend on a number of factors, including the time of the journey is taken at, known as on-peak and off-peak, and the distance travelled.



Average single train trip

Average single trip bus

Average monthly cost


GBP 3.00

GBP 1.50

GBP 56.00


GBP 2.50

GBP 1.30

GBP 45.00


GBP 2.30

GBP 1.50

GBP 47.00


GBP 2.30

GBP 1.40

GBP 45.00


GBP 2.50

GBP 1.40

GBP 43.00


*Transport for London operates a price cap system for Oyster cards meaning that there is a maximum amount that you will have to pay per day. These are divided into peak (06:30am – 09:30am & 16:00pm -19:00pm) and off-peak (9:30am – 16:00pm & 19:00pm to 06:30am). You won’t pay more than a maximum of GBP 18.60 for peak travel between all zones and using buses only this is GBP 4.50.




Part and parcel of any student experience is being able to enjoy leisure time and have the chance to socialise. Although it’s not always necessary to find funds for all activities, and there are some great student discounts, inevitably there will be a price associated with some entertainment.


It can also depend on where you are in the UK as to how big the bill will be, with London demanding a greater amount of spending. Students can reduce the overheads by looking for places that are free to access and those that offer student incentives and prices. In addition, it can be beneficial to join student loyalty and reward schemes that will offer discounts, cashback and sometimes free products/services.



Connectivity, communication and TV


Needs may differ from student to student, however, there are some standard essentials that the majority of students wouldn’t want to be without. Staying in touch with family and friends is a priority, meaning that mobile data and WiFi would be high on the list.


Getting a SIM card and package is not an overly complicated or arduous process, with a wide variety of service providers to choose from. Doing a bit of research on what deals are available is always a good idea, much of which will depend on unique needs. A useful trick to avoid mobile service provider call costs is to make use of the in-app call function of messaging apps.


For students staying in university accommodation, the chances are that WiFi and television may be included in the fees. Private renting may mean that students will need to pay for television license fees, television channel packages and procure the services of a WiFi provider.

Costs of WiFi can vary and it’s essential to research the options available and what best suits the budget. Generally, television and WiFi packages are bundled together by service providers and download speeds average about 50MB/sec on fibre installations. A further consideration can be what infrastructure already exists at a property as to what can and cannot be installed.




Miscellaneous costs


Even with the most detailed and fastidious budget planning, there’ll always be some extra costs and expenditure that slips under the radar. These can catch anyone off guard as they add up surprisingly quickly.


In certain cases, these may be costs associated with setting up, such as deposits and one-off registration fees. In other instances, the costs would be recurring for items such as toiletries and stationery. For self-catered or private accommodation household goods like an iron or toaster may be required or there may be a need to buy linen.



GBP 20


GBP 50


GBP 20

Start-up costs

GBP 40*


GBP 30

Household goods

GBP 30*


*Once-off costs.


Now that you’ve got an idea of how much student life in the UK costs, have a look at what courses are available in the UK and start planning your study abroad adventure.  

Study in the UK


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