The costs of university: What to expect

Life at university has a lot to offer, including a widened worldview, new friendships and relationships, and, most significantly, the means to be fully independent, as you’re managing workloads, meals, and finances on your own.  With these new opportunities comes a hefty price tag, however. So what can you expect when you finally leave the nest? This article will go through some of the costs of university life and the resources that are available to you.

One of primary factors in determining your cost of living as a student is the location of the university. Heading to study in London will be more financially straining than setting yourself up in Yorkshire. To give you a better idea of costs in your area, take a look at the cost of living by location. That said, there are certain considerations that all must take into account no matter university location.

Tuition and Fees

Depending on where in the UK you are from and where you attend university, fees will vary. Due to recent fee increases, it could cost you up to 9,000 GBP a year to attend university in England. If you are a Welsh student attending Uni, fees above 3,465 GBP are paid by the Welsh assembly. However, students from England, Scotland and Northern Ireland pay full fees. Similarly, for Universities in Scotland, Scottish students do not have to pay fees, but students from outside of Scotland are responsible for them. For Northern Irish students studying in Northern Ireland, fees have not changed, and remain at 3,500 GBP a year. Students from elsewhere in the UK will be subject to higher fees in Northern Ireland. A full list of changed university fees in the UK can be found listed by BBC here. There are grants, loans and scholarships available to help with these fees on both the national and university level. Be sure to check out this debt calculator tool to plan for repayment.


While many universities provide on-campus accommodation for undergraduate students at discounted prices, many universities only guarantee housing for the first year or two. It is also possible to not receive housing at all if you are accepted into your program late, or if you forget to turn in your application on time! If you choose to live outside of university housing, there are several factors to consider. Students must consider the type of room (bedsits, flat shares, studio apartments) and the location (walking distance to Uni or a train ride away). Do you need the room to be furnished, or can you bring your own furnishings? Would you prefer to live alone or with a group of friends? It’s a good idea to head into your University Housing Office to talk through some of these options. They can also provide you with a list of reputable letting agencies.

Always check whether utilities and local council taxes (which most students are exempt from) are included in the rent. Also make sure that your landlord is legally registered. Most landlords will require a deposit of up to one month’s rent to ensure that you do not damage the property. By law, this deposit must be placed in a secure deposit scheme.

Ideally, you should not spend more than one third of your savings on rent. Although this may not be possible in certain parts of the UK, spending more on housing means less on everything else, including entertainment and going out.


Although many universities have affordable meal plans, food will still account for a large percentage of a student’s budget, especially if they have their own kitchens. The price of food is also heavily dependent on location, with major cities being known for inflated food prices. Having weekly shopping trips and packing lunches should help you save money on this front.

School Supplies

While some students are satisfied with using the library computers to write papers and prepare for exams, the vast majority of  students prefer the convenience and privacy of personal laptops. Students often also invest in wireless printers to print off their coursework quickly from their tablets and smartphones without waiting in long lines in the library. Students are increasingly getting tablets and netbooks to transport their electronic books with ease and take notes in lectures and seminars.  It is best to budget at least 500 GBP toward these technological expenses, depending on need.

It is also common to have broadband internet installed. While almost all university halls will have internet already installed, if you are in a private residence expect to pay up to 50 GBP for installation and about 10 GBP a month for service, depending on your provider.

Depending on your subject, school books can cost you up to 400 GBP a term, or more. Luckily most universities have multiple course textbooks on reserve in the library and students are not required to purchase them. If there is a book that you are required to purchase try getting it second hand on websites such as and


If you live on or near campus your travel costs will be minimal, with a bus ride here and there for an evening out. If you commute to university, however, transportation can be a major cost concern. That said, depending on where you are there may be monthly student passes available to you for public transportation. Another great option is to begin cycling to class. Relaxing, therapeutic and cheap, more and more students make cycling a part of their lives. Check out,, and for some secondhand gear in your area.

This list should get you started thinking about the cost of living at university, and where your money will end up. One theme throughout is that price is highly dependent on where you are in the UK. You can find multiple estimated costs of living online, perhaps even from the uni you will attend. As a sample, check out this helpful guide of estimated living costs, released by the University of Edinburgh. A quick search should help you find the cost of living at your university and help prepare you for the transition ahead.

Save yourself money by choosing the best student account for you with our Student Bank Account Comparison Guide >>

Photograph courtesy of TaxFix.

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