Revealed: The best city to go to university in 2019

  • Cardiff is the most affordable city to go to university
  • Students in Scotland are working the most whilst studying
  • The Bank of Mum and Dad the biggest source of income, after student loans
  • One in three students have no budget at all whilst at university


Cardiff has been named the most cost-effective city to attend university in the UK, as part of the NatWest Student Living Index 2019.

However, only three percent of students choose where to attend based on affordability – with the majority (48%) calling subject choice their number one concern.


More money in the Valleys  

If you’re attending university in Cardiff, you’re in luck – the Welsh capital has been declared the most cost effective city for higher education in the whole of the UK, overtaking last year’s winner, Hull.

Not only are students in Cardiff likely to spend well below the average amount on their accommodation, they also receive more by the way of student loan payments (£603 per month) and bursary/scholarship money (£120 per month).

And with the money spent on alcohol just below the UK student average of £27.20 per week, it seems as if all that extra income isn’t necessarily going to waste.


Term time income

Cardiff may be most affordable city when it comes to living and accommodation costs but, perhaps surprisingly, students in Bristol came out on top for total term time income.

Based on all sources of income, students in the West Country stand to make £1,387 per month. Manchester, Cardiff, Leicester and Southampton rounded out the top five.

But things aren’t quite so positive in London, with term time income in the capital dropping by almost £200 – despite topping the table last year.

Students in London also spend the most on rent, at £700 – a massive 69% more than the national average.

Students in Scotland work the most hours whilst at uni, with those in Stirling spending around 27 hours every month concentrating on their part-time jobs. Edinburgh and Aberdeen also featured in the top five.


The Bank vs The Bank of Mum and Dad

Perhaps unsurprisingly, loans provide the highest monthly monetary contribution across the board – making up a massive 45% of student savings.

Other forms of income included money from parents or family (20%), part-time work, personal savings, and bursaries/scholarships (around 9% each).

According to the research, Oxford students receive the most from their parents every month, followed by those in St Andrews, Durham and Southampton.

Those based in Belfast get the least from their families, and students in Cambridge top the pile for bursaries and scholarships.


Big spenders

Aside from household bills, students have two main outgoings: supermarkets and socialising.

Food shopping, toiletries and household items were the clear priorities – with the average student spending £83.50 every month on the necessities, up almost £10 from last year.

Eating out was the next expenditure (£38.20), followed by clothes shopping (£29.90), and alcohol (£27.20), a surprising distant third.

However, it does seem like spending varies across the country. Students in Liverpool easily spend the most on a night out, with 22% of those admitting they spent more than £30 the last time they went out.

Students in Cambridge saved the most when it came to social spending.


Stress and mental health awareness 

Despite the social aspect, many students admitted they’ve struggled with stress – both during and after university.

42% of UK students confessed they feel concerned about their financial situation after the completion of their degree.

45% of students rate studying for university as being very stressful, especially for university cities with bigger reputations such as Cambridge, Durham & Oxford.

Students in Aberystwyth are the happiest overall when studying.

Mental health awareness is also a growing concern for some students. Just 1 in 4 said they were satisfied with their university’s mental health support offering – with students in St. Andrews happiest in this area.


Subject the biggest factor

Finally, although affordability is undoubtedly important, it has almost no impact on the decision of where to study.

Half of the students surveyed based their choice on what subjects were on offer, with university reputation (23%), close proximity to their home (13%), and social life (5%) all coming above cost of living (3%).

But with one in three admitting they don’t budget at all whilst at uni, it’s not surprising that cost of living isn’t a key deciding factor for picking the perfect place to study.


The NatWest Student Living Index is made up of answers from 3,604 students across 35 popular university cities. Affordability is calculated by taking monthly living and accommodation costs, and dividing them by the average monthly income for that city. For the full results, visit NatWest Life Moments


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