Students & Graduates

Student Living
Index 2020

Want to know what students really think about university?

From the people you meet to lecturers who inspire you, everyone’s university experience is unique. Returning for its seventh year, the Student Living Index tells you the things a university prospectus won’t, helping you make an informed decision if you're heading to university in 2020.

How has Covid-19 affected students?

The pandemic led to a national lockdown, leading to implications likely to be felt by the higher education sector for years to come. In this year’s index, we asked students to reveal what impacts it’s had on their student experience, and to rate their universities’ handling of the crisis.

During the pandemic..

of students felt supported by their university

1 in 4
believe their studies have been negatively impacted

1 in 10
think they're getting value for money

have been offered a rent break by their landlord

Picking the right university

Research, research, research

Starting your university journey can seem daunting and it’s not always clear what to expect. Thorough research is essential to bridge that knowledge gap and help you feel prepared. University websites and a prospectus will only tell you so much, you need the Student Living Index to get the inside track.

Consider all the costs

Now in its seventh year, the Student Living Index gathers valuable data to provide an insight into life as a student in 2020. Speaking to 2,806 students across 29 university cities, we identify what students are spending their time and money on and how satisfied they are with all aspects of student life.

Which UK city is most affordable* for students?

Manchester overtakes Cardiff (2019) to become the most cost-effective city for students.
*Affordability is calculated by dividing students’ average monthly accommodation, activities and item costs by their average monthly income.

UK student living costs and more

Which city’s students spend the most time socialising and which are best at budgeting? Find answers to these questions and discover so much more about how UK students are living in 2020.


With 61% of students relying on student finance to cover their monthly rent, loans remain the leading source of income for students in the UK. This year's index indicates 33% of students are facing money worries before the term ends, compared with 43% in 2019. As a result, the need for family support has also dropped, with 39% of students relying on financial support from their family to top-up their term-time income. On average, students are receiving almost £30 less each month from their family compared to last year.


The largest monthly outgoing expense for UK students is their rent followed by supermarket shopping. On the bright side, average rent costs have declined by 10% nationwide over the last year. Students in Glasgow and Aberdeen spend slightly more on items and activities than they do on rent. Outside of necessities, the majority of students’ income is spent on social activities, averaging £42.40 a month. London-based students spend the least time socialising yet they top the table with the most money spent on clothes, shoes and accessories, at double the national average.


When it comes to managing their finances, two thirds of students in the UK try to budget, though they occasionally stray off course. Most students have adopted a flexible mind set towards budgeting. Students are unlikely to deny themselves their down time between studies, which is reflected in their monthly spend on hobbies and social activities.

Studying vs. socialising

This year's index reveals that students are spending more time both studying and socialising, with monthly hours spent on each increasing by 17 hours and one hour respectively. We found that students in Edinburgh are amongst the UK's most sociable, whilst those in Glasgow are Scotland's most hard working.

Part-time Employment

Students have been steadily committing fewer hours to part-time work for the second year in a row. This year's average stands at nearly 13 hours a month, with students in Belfast, London and Glasgow devoting the most time to part-time employment and averaging 18-22 hours a month. Students in Ireland and Scotland are 32% less dependent on student loans than the UK average.

Mental health, wellbeing and sustainability

This year's survey also reveals how students feel their universities are performing on issues that matter to them, mental health and wellbeing and sustainability.

Mental Health & Wellbeing

Compared with the 2019 index, universities have made improvements to their student wellbeing programmes, with Scottish universities performing well. The affordability of these support programmes remains an issue for many students, however.


Across the UK, one in four students believe their university actively promotes sustainability on campus, but just 6% view their university as being extremely committed. When it comes to rankings, Nottingham outperforms the rest with a 50% approval rating – that’s twice as high as the national average.

Download the Student Living Index 2020

Are you already at uni or still deciding where to go? Download the 2020 Student Living Index to find out which students are spending the most on their daily coffee, and which students are socialising the most.

We’re here to help you stay on top of your finances

We understand the current circumstances can add pressure on student budgets. Our introduction to student finance could help you find out more about the financial support that might be available to you.

Need a student bank account?

Choose 1 of our 3 great offers to make student life just that little bit easier.

Apply online only. Account eligibility criteria applies.

Is there anything we can help you with?