/ Money

Could you afford to be a student in 2018?

University isn’t cheap, but it’s not just about rising tuition fees. Outgoings for accommodation, transport, hobbies and socialising soon mount up. How much money do students need to get by on these days?

Unsurprisingly, the amount a student will need to live on depends on where you choose to study.

According to the Which? student budget calculator, it ranges from £8,800 a year for those in Northern Ireland to a staggering £14,200 a year for those in London, on average.

These regional variances will no doubt have an impact on uni choice. Back when I was a student, well over 10 years ago, I made the decision to rule out London universities based on finance alone.

I couldn’t even consider the possibility. Even with the maximum maintenance loan and earnings from my part time job I found myself right in the depths of my overdraft – and that was up north!

Student life is tough. I have fond memories of walking for an hour uphill in the Yorkshire rain to avoid a £1.50 bus fare back to my halls, withdrawing a tenner from a cash machine and making it last a week and buying five kilos of pasta in bulk when my student loan came in!

Implications for students

Students and parents alike are under huge financial pressure whilst going through university. A recent Which? survey found that 1 in 10 students admit they had considered dropping out of university due to financial difficulties.

20% of students also admitted using their overdrafts to cover the cost of living at university, whilst 10% confessed to having to rely on credit cards. 46% of students had asked family for extra money to manage their living costs whilst at university.

As we all should know by now, one of the best ways to manage costs is to plan ahead; work out your budget in advance and stick to it. One student I spoke to said she manages student life in London by living off a strict £5 a day budget, as well as saving beforehand and working during the holidays.

The Which? University student budget calculator gives students and parents a rough idea of what it costs to live as a student at different universities.

Sticking to budgets, on the other hand, may prove a bit tricky. You never know what you’re likely to buy when you’re 18 years old and drunk at 2am – I’ve heard stories of students buying life size cardboard cutouts of Gordon Ramsey off eBay!

How did you manage costs when you were at university? Would you have liked a bit more help with your budgeting? Take our quiz below and let us know how you get on.


Responsible parents have 18 years to save up for uni for their offspring.

Why do we keep hearing of struggling students, never about the failure of parents to save up to support them financially.

A curious quiz that maybe gives an insight into student financial priorities – concert tickets, flights, cinema, pubs, clubs, restaurants, takeaways and snacks. All nice to have, but not entitlements. There are other priorities when the budget is tight – basic living, books, for example.

I hope this discussion is not to suggest I, and other taxpayers who may not be well off, should somehow subsidise these extras?

Options are, if living costs will be a problem, go to a university near home. You can delay going to university for a year or two while you earn the money you would like. I worked on the railways and selling ice cream to give me a cushion of money before going to university, and worked in the holidays to top up. As alfa says, many parents can also make appropriate provision.

“Personally, I think it’s a shame for students to miss out on moving away from home for the first time if that decision is purely based on finance.”

I find it quite perplexing that students do not take the opportunity of free board and lodging if they can go to uni from home. Whilst we seem to be preaching financial discipline to avoid paying bank charges there seems to be some sort of license that if you are a student then it does not matter as much.

Getting into debt is never wise but restricting debt as far as possible is perhaps a very valuable lesson for the future.

I lived at home when I was a student. I had the benefit of living in a nice residential area where I could study (some student halls and houses can be very noisy), having my washing done for me, cooked meals if I turned up on time, the use of a car most evenings and a garage to keep my motorcycle in. I was fortunate to get on very well with my parents. Yes it makes financial sense.

Sue Klein says:
16 July 2018

I certainly could not afford to be a student now. Nor could I afford my own flat at its current value, which is more than 15 times what i paid for it in 1986.

Doing paid work during the long vacations need not just be a way of making money but with a bit of effort and some luck students could do something more worthwhile than working in a pub or supermarket during the long vacations. I knew some students who managed to work one day a week at weekends and still come out with a good degree but those who were working during the week and sometimes skipping classes generally performed poorly in assessment or dropped out. There does not seem much point in going to university if you are not going to put in much effort.

I was fortunate to obtain two well paid holiday jobs in research labs in my home university and they were useful to boost my short CV. My first holiday job was working in a small company for the princely sum of £5 per week. It more than covered the cost of my lunch and gave me the opportunity to indulge my hobby interests in electronics. I think I missed out a bit on the social experience of going to university but I still meet up with friends I met at university.