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Press Room

03 August 2009

NatWest Student Living Index 2009

Brighton is named as Britain’s most cost effective university town

NatWest unveils its sixth annual Student Living Index and reveals how hard-working students continue to look to the future with resilience and confidence.

  • Brighton on top: The NatWest Student Living Index 2009 has found that Brighton is the most cost-effective location to study in Britain, while York is the least cost-effective
  • Term time earnings: Brighton students earn an average of 3,848.70 1 from part-time work – the equivalent to over 6,000 2 tins of baked beans, 5,000 3 music downloads or 18,000 4 calls home
  • High wages, long hours: Brighton students earn the most with 40% earning on average over 9 an hour, whilst also working longer hours than most, with 31% of students putting in over 20 hours a week – versus the national average of 14 hours per week
  • Continued parental support: Parents are continuing to support their children through university. More than half of all students (52%) are receiving the same or more parental support than the same period last year
  • Bank of Mum and Dad increases: Of their children’s weekly term-time income, parents are contributing 61% (69.51) compared to 58% in 2008 (64.12)
  • Optimism in the job market: 65% of students still expect to find a job in their first year of leaving university, just 3% down on the same period last year and only 10% (200,000) of students are working in order to ‘save for the future’
  • Passion more important than security for careers: 63% of students still cite ‘a passion for their chosen career’ as the most important factor when applying for jobs after graduating, with only 10% citing ‘job security’ - reflecting the resilience and continued optimism of students
  • Quality still the key to university: With 63% of students choosing their university based on its academic reputation or subject choice, students are still focused on gaining a quality higher education and further qualifications

1Average weekly income from part-time work in Brighton 128.29 multiplied by average length of university academic year (30 weeks)
23,848.70 divided by 64p – the price of Heinz Baked Beanz at ASDA, Sainsbury’s and Tesco based on comparison website
3This estimate is based on the average cost of a single track download in the UK at 79p as per the website on 22nd July 2009.
4This estimate is based on the average cost of a one minute conversation from a UK mobile to a UK landline

Monday 3rd August, London, UK – NatWest today unveiled the Student Living Index – an annual report on university cost-of-living, now in its sixth year.

The research, which analyses weekly expenditure data for rent and living items, against weekly earnings figures from part-time work, reveals that Brighton is now the most cost-effective university location in Britain.

The Student Living Index reveals that in Brighton, hard-working students are raking in on average a whopping 3,848.70 per academic year, the equivalent of 128.29 per week. 40% of Brighton students are now earning over 9 an hour, with 31% of students putting in more than 20 hours a week.

Optimism and resilience

Across Britain, the NatWest Student Living Index also reveals a spirit of optimism and resilience among the nation’s student population. 65% of students – just 3% down on last year – are still confident of landing a job within their first year of graduation.

Idealistic students also continue to pursue their favoured career as opposed to one offering high rewards and job security. Of the students sampled, 63% still cite a passion for their chosen career as the prime motivating factor when applying for jobs with only 10% considering job security.

NatWest Student Living Index University Town League Table

The full table of university towns ranked by NatWest’s Student Living Index, is as follows:

1.Brighton (4)11.Birmingham (22)
2.Liverpool (8)12.Leeds (7)
3.Glasgow (13)13.Plymouth (1)
4.Reading (NE)14.Cardiff (17)
5.Manchester (24)15.Portsmouth (5)
6.Bristol (6)16.Newcastle (11)
7.Leicester (20)17.Dundee (3)
8.Cambridge (2)18.Norwich (NE)
9.Oxford (21)19.Nottingham (15)
10.Edinburgh (18)20.York (19)

Rankings according to the 2008 Student Living Index are indicated in brackets after the name of each university town. 'NE' bracket denotes that this town is a 'new entry' in the research.

The table ranks Britain's major university towns by plotting average student expenditure on living and housing costs against income from term-time employment 5.

The research, conducted in 20 university towns and cities in Britain, shows that the average Brighton student spends 220.38 per week on living and housing costs, but manages to offset these costs in part, with impressive weekly earnings of 128.29 from part-time work.

At the other end of the scale, the average student in York makes half that amount with an average of just 64.14 from term-time employment – the lowest amount of all the university towns and cities surveyed.

Phil Cook, Head of NatWest Student and Graduate Banking, said: "This year's Student Living Index clearly demonstrates the amazing resilience and personal confidence of the country's student population.

"Our research shows students are being particularly resourceful in taking pro-active steps to manage their finances by taking on part-time work. What is also interesting is that this is not stopping them from spending, showing how well-run personal finances can liberate students to enjoy a happy and balanced lifestyle.

"At NatWest, we believe in equipping students with the money management skills they need before they even get to university. Aligning their weekly costs with the necessary income is key to making the most of your money."

National comparison

The NatWest research reveals that, in total, British students will spend over 362 million in housing and living costs over the coming academic year. The city offering lowest weekly living costs is Birmingham at 171.14, whilst Oxford students have the highest at 238.38 per week.

5The NatWest Student Living Index was calculated as follows: for each university town, average local weekly student expenditure on living and accommodation costs (comprising alcohol, books and course materials, cigarettes, going out, buying clothes, laundry, transport costs, utility bills, telephone bills, eating out, buying CDs, DVDs and videos, photocopying and library costs, supermarket food shopping and rent) was divided by average local weekly income for working students. This provided a relative differential value, by which the 20 university towns were ranked. Rankings according to the 2008 Student Living Index are indicated in brackets after the name of each university town.

University students in Glasgow have the most students in part time work (60%) and they also work the highest average number of hours per week in their part-time job (17.15). Newcastle has the fewest students in work (22%), whilst Manchester students spend the fewest hours studying per week (16.11).

The Student Living Index also reveals how the current crop of undergraduates feel about their job prospects. 17% of students, almost the same as last year (18%) still believe they will find their dream job in the first year out of university. 48% also expect to have a job in their first year out of university compared to 50% at the same time last year.

The NatWest Student Living Index is the only survey of its kind and is cited by students and universities alike as a useful tool in planning for higher education.


For more information on the NatWest Student Account, visit your local NatWest branch or go on-line at

Research was conducted by The Survey Shop among a sample of 2,000 undergraduates from 20 university towns across Britain.

Available for interview:

  • Phil Cook, Head of NatWest Student and Graduate Banking
  • Student case studies