12 January 2015

The cost of going to university in the UK

Applying to university this year? If you have tuition fees to pay, you’ll probably be looking at those closely. But fees aside, you could still see a difference to your day-to-day bank balance based on where you choose to study. Regional variations in the cost of accommodation, going out and travel can add up over the course of a year. 

Here are a list of money matters to consider before you fill in that UCAS form, and our infographic looking at the cost of going to university across the country.

Housing costs

After tuition fees, one of the biggest university cost factors is where you choose to live. While university accommodation can sometimes be more affordable than private renting, it’s often only an option for your first year. So when you’re applying, it pays to think long-term, and see how much you could save by studying in a city with lower rents. 

Study at Cardiff, and privately rented housing could cost around £2,880 a year , while London’s UCL weighs in at up to £6,624more than twice as much. Research student rentals online to get a sense of how much students are paying in your city of choice – but factor in increases as your course progresses. In 2013, the National Union of Students reported an average increase in rent of 25% over 3 years (PDF). 

Even within cities, accommodation costs can vary significantly, so bear in mind the additional travel costs you might end up with if you’re chasing cheaper rent by living further away from campus. It’s not always worth it if, in practice, you end up spending the difference on bus tickets.

Getting about

When you’re comparing universities, take the time to calculate the cost of travel over the whole year. Think about how often you’ll want to travel home – what does that add up to in train tickets? Check the cost on National Rail’s website and don’t underestimate the value of a 16-25 Railcard. 

Next up, how much travel will you need to do to get around? If you’re on a campus, how much is a bus into town? And if you’re in student accommodation to begin with, what happens after that? It’s worth finding out where the most common areas are for students to live – then you can get an idea of your travel costs ahead of time. 

For example, Norwich’s University of East Anglia has teamed up with the local bus company to offer a 3-month pass for £162. Meanwhile in London, a 3-month student Travelcard for zones 1-3 will cost you £303.

Going out

It’s not just the big things that can have an impact on your pocket – the little things add up too. Take a pint of beer. According to the Good Pub Guide, the average price differs up to 76p per pint, with drinkers spending just £3.03 on average in Herefordshire, while Londoners shell out £3.79 . 

76p may not sound like that much right now, but when you consider that many student - age drinkers in the UK consume 5 pints a week, it soon adds up. In fact, over the course of 3 years, that’s a potential difference of £592.80.

Cost of University in the UK infographic

What else?

Reading lists

Most universities will be happy to give you an example reading list for your course so you can compare the cost of textbooks and other required materials beforehand.

Get social

Almost every university these days has a great social media presence, so use their Facebook and Twitter pages to ask questions.

Look for peer approval

Sites like The Student Room can connect you to other students in the same position as you, so you can share information.

University admissions

Your prospective university’s admissions team is there to make sure people like you choose to study with them, not someone else. Make use of their expertise!

Be prepared

If you get into the habit of researching the real-life costs of the courses that catch your eye, it could make your decision that bit easier when the time comes. 

However, there are bound to be a few things that take you by surprise - especially if you’re moving out of home for the first time.
For a little extra peace of mind in your first term, try to save as much as you can before you set off. Having a cushion to help cover extra expenses you couldn’t foresee could help you concentrate on what really matters – making the most of your university years!

Find out more about how to save for university.

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