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What are the costs of study and living?

Monday 13 December 2010 David Malcolm Info and advice

How much does it cost to live and study as a student? Here are some average costs for a student in higher education to give you an idea and help you plan your budget.

Where do these figures come from?

Every year, NUS estimates how much a full-time higher education undergraduate in England spends on average in an academic year (a standard 39 week period). These estimates are based on research such as the government’s Student Income and Expenditure Survey, and the NUS/Unipol Accommodation Costs Survey.

Estimating ‘average’ costs is difficult because there’s no such thing as an ‘average’ student – it all depends on factors like your institution, course and part of the UK you live in, plus your personal circumstances, which influence the grants, loans and benefits you’re entitled to.

The estimated costs below are for students living and studying in England for the 2012/2013 academic year. You can use them as a rough guide if you live and study in other parts of the UK, but bear in mind that your costs and potential income may differ considerably. Costs and potential income may also be different for students in further education (post-compulsory education at pre-degree level).

Here’s more detailed information about funding for higher and further education.

Average course costs

Average course costs for full-time higher education are the same across England: £10,133 for each academic year. This breaks down as follows:

  • £8,354 for tuition fees
  • £709 for travel
  • £1,070 for books, equipment and so on.

These costs may be different depending on how much your university charges, and where you live in the country. See the BBC’s list of fees for each university.

Potential income

The estimated costs of study and living take account of your potential income from grants and loans. What you’re entitled to may differ a lot, depending on your country and the year you start your course. The government provides an online calculator for students in England to help you estimate what loans, grants and extra help you can get (eg if you’re disabled or have children).

The estimates below are for new full-time students living and studying in England. The figures show the maximum amounts available, then an indication of what our ‘average’ student might be entitled to (a student with an average household income according to the Office for National Statistics, undertaking a 39 week course).

Potential income from loans and funding each academic year is up to £20,879 for London (our ‘average’ student gets £17,450) and £18,497 for the rest of England (our ‘average’ student gets £14,370). This is made up made up of:

  • Tuition fee loan (up to £9,000 depending on the cost of your course – £8,354 for our ‘average’ student)
  • Maintenance grant (up to £3,250 depending on your household income – £934 for our ‘average’ student)
  • Loan for living costs away from home (depending on a number of factors, up to £7,675 for London – our ‘average’ student gets £7,208; or up to £5,500 for the rest of England – our ‘average’ student gets £4,335)
  • Loan for long courses (depending on a number of factors including the length of your course – for a 39 week course, £954 for London or £747 for the rest of England)

Average expenditure for London

If you live and study in London, you should expect your total average expenditure to be £23,521 each academic year. This breaks down as follows:

  • £10,133 for course costs
  • £13,388 for living costs
    (£6,143 for rent, £1,956 for food, £316 for household goods, £65 for insurance, £2,074 for personal items, £1,524 for travel and £1,310 for leisure).

Our ‘average’ student’s income from loans and funding each academic year is £17,450, so you might need to find £6,071 on average every academic year to cover the shortfall between your expenditure and income from loans and funding, as well as funding to cover the long vacation.

Average expenditure for the rest of England

If you live and study in England but outside London, you should expect your total average expenditure to be £22,189 each academic year. This breaks down as follows:

  • £10,133 for course costs
  • £12,056 for living costs
    (£4,834 for rent, £1,956 for food, £316 for household goods, £42 for insurance, £2,074 for personal items, £1,524 for travel and £1,310 for leisure).

Our ‘average’ student’s income from loans and funding each academic year is £14,370, so you might need to find £7,819 on average every academic year to cover the shortfall between your expenditure and income from loans and funding, as well as funding to cover the long vacation.

International students

If you’re an international student considering study in the UK, take a look at the international student calculator to help you work out how to manage your money and build a budget for living and studying in the UK. It’s important for you to ensure you have sufficient funds before leaving home.

Find out more

Download a copy of the 2012/2013 NUS/Unipol Accommodation Costs Survey here:

Accommodation Costs Survey

See the government’s Student Income and Expenditure Survey 2007/2008.

NUS provides this information in good faith and has taken care to make sure it’s accurate. However, student finance issues can be complicated, and rules change frequently. You should contact the advice centre in your students' union, college or university for support if you’re uncertain or need more help.