Life Moments - Students & Graduates

Student Living Index 2018

Fancy some insider knowledge on uni life?

Unsure of what to expect from university? Maybe you’re still not sure where you want to go yet and need a little more information to help you decide?

Picking the right university

Doing your research

Your first experience away from home can be both exciting and daunting. Visiting your university city and reading their prospectus can get you so far – but insider knowledge can be even more valuable. That’s where the Royal Bank of Scotland Student Living Index comes in.

Working out the costs

For the fifth year in a row, we’ve published data to help you understand what it’s really like to be a student at university. We’ve asked 3,419 students across 35 popular university cities how much they spend on essentials like food, rent and bills, and how they juggle their time across studying, part-time work and socialising.

The most affordable* city for students in the UK?

Hull takes the top spot as 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.

How are students spending their money in 2018?

Who spends the most? Who are the best at budgeting? Find out more about some of the most popular university cities across the UK when it comes to money.


Apart from student loans, the Bank of Mum and Dad provides the biggest contribution to students’ term-time income – topping up their total by £199.70 a month on average.

Income in more detail

Students in Hull have the third highest monthly income at £1,316.60 and get to enjoy the fourth lowest rent cost at £388.75. Combined with low living costs of £375.50, this makes Hull the best value-for-money city.

Students in Liverpool experience the worst value, with a monthly income of £1073.50 and outgoings of £486.30 on rent and £525.70 on living costs.

London students have the highest monthly total income at £1,388.10, with students in York having the lowest at £993.80 – £228 less than the national student average.

Students in Oxford and Cambridge get the most money from their parents a month, at £355.30 and £290.40 respectively.

You can find out more about loans, grants, bursaries and scholarships in our introduction to student finance.


After food, toiletries and bills, the biggest expense for students is buying alcohol* followed by eating out.

Spending in more detail

Students living in London pay the highest rent with a monthly average of £668.24. They spend just under the UK average on household bills, at £42.20.

Students in Glasgow and Belfast pay the least rent, paying an average of £373.48 and £339.15 respectively.

Although students in Belfast enjoy the lowest average rent, the same can’t be said for alcohol. They expect to pay the most for a pint, at £7.20 (well over double the UK average). For the cheapest pints, head to Durham (£2.20) or Leicester (£2.00).

Students in Glasgow expect to spend the most on a night out at an average of £25.60, and they also admit to spending the most on going out per month. However, 9% of students in Manchester admit to having spent over £50the last time they went out.

Students in Newcastle spend the most on alcohol per month, with Northumbria University students spending an average of £55.88, and Newcastle University students just behind them at £42.81 per month.

Students in Manchester appear to be the most fashion-conscious, followed by London – spending on average £45.70and £42.20 per month respectively on clothes, shoes and accessories. In contrast, Southampton students spend just £17.50.

*Excluding those who do not drink.


One third of students (33%) aren’t budgeting, with 5% of these students not even considering what they’re spending at all.

Budgeting in more detail

28% of students don’t budget at all, but say that they’re not frivolous with their money.

5% don’t consider what they’re spending at all when it comes to managing their money.

Students in Leicester are most careful with their spending, with nearly a third saying they budget carefully (32.41%).

Students in Stirling have the most relaxed attitude to spending with 1 in 10 not considering what they are spending at all (10.53%).

Over half (52%) rate the stress of managing their money at university a 6 or above on a scale of 0 – 10, with 10 being the most stressed.

14% of students said they aren’t supported at all by their university when it comes to managing finances.

If you're looking for tips on how to manage your money while you study, check out our budgeting support for students.

Studying vs. socialising

Students prioritise studying over socialising, spending three times as many hours in lectures, the library or completing coursework, than they do going out with friends.

Studying vs. socialising in more detail

The average student spends 90.3 hours a month studying for their degree and 29.7 hours a month on average socialising.

Oxbridge students spend the most time studying out of all UK universities. Students at Oxford spend 134.9 hours and those at Cambridge spend 131.8 hours a month.

Those in Manchester and Stirling study the least, at 62.9 hours and 58.2 hours respectively.

Durham is the most social university, with students spending over 40 hours a month socialising. Students in London socialise the least at only 19.5 hours

78% of students rate the stress of studying for their degree as a 6 or above on a scale of 0 – 10, with 10 being the most stressed.

The survey also found that the longer students spend socialising the more likely they are to enjoy studying for their degree.

Part-time Employment

The average UK student earns less from part-time employment than the money they receive from their family each month.

Employment in more detail

Students work an average of 15.3 hours a month in a part-time job, financial help from the Bank of Mum and Dad (£199.70) is almost double what the average student earns from term-time work (£106.50).

Students in Glasgow make the most money from working part-time hours on average (£192.20 per month). Scotland seems to have one of the biggest groups of working students, making Glasgow (£192.20)Stirling (£182.90) and Dundee (£174.10) in the top three for term-time income. 

Students in Dundee also spend the most time working, across both term-time and in the holidays (25.4 hours). 

If you're looking for top tips when it comes to employment check out our support page, your first job.

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Download the Student Living Index 2018

Are you currently attending university or still deciding where to go? Download the 2018 Student Living Index to find out which students are spending the most on their daily coffee, and which students are socialising the most.