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Press Room

16 August 2010

Capital surprise as London tops list of UK's most cost-effective university cities

NatWest unveils its seventh Student Living Index - an annual study of how cost-effective the UK's major university cities and towns are for students, based on spending habits, and how students offset these costs.

  • London leads on cost-effectiveness: London is the most cost-effective city in which to study in the UK, while York is the least cost-effective for the second year in a row.
  • Bank of Mum and Dad dries up: More than one in four (28%) students are receiving less financial support from their parents with nearly half (46%) not receiving any parental funding.
  • Saving over socialising: Students' are increasingly concerned about avoiding debt, with more putting money earned from part time jobs into savings 1 and less being spent on socialising.
  • Working longer hours: Dundee students work the most hours each week, with those working clocking up almost 16 hours a week. However, it is London students who earn the most from part-time work with an average income of 5,024.40 2, the equivalent of approximately 7,850 3 tins of baked beans. Students in Southampton work the least each week with just over 11 hours spent earning extra cash.
  • Being practical about the graduate job market: Over three quarters (76%) of students are maximising their employability by applying for internships, working instead of travelling, and generally working harder, aiming for higher grades in recognition of the weak job market.

Monday 16th August, London, UK - NatWest has today unveiled the Student Living Index - an annual report on university cost-of-living, now in its seventh year.

The research, which analyses weekly expenditure including rent and living costs against earnings from part-time work, reveals that London is this year's most cost-effective university location in the UK.

Hard-working and resourceful London students are earning, on average, a massive 5,024 per year - a substantial 167.48 per week. Whilst they are working less than students in Dundee - the second most cost-effective city polled, their hourly earnings of 9.91, compared to just 6.52 in Dundee, puts London in pole position.

Cost becomes a key consideration

This year's Student Living Index also reveals that university choice is increasingly focused on cost, with more than double the number of students this year basing their choice of university on fees rather than academia. In total, one in five (22%) undergraduates are choosing their place of study based on factors such as the cost of living, proximity to home and earning potential in their chosen city. In addition, the 'Bank of Mum and Dad' has become less generous in the last year, with more than one on four (28%) students receiving less from their parents, whilst only one in ten (10%) are getting more. In what could be a side effect of the continuing global recession, nearly half of students (46%) are receiving no parental support this year.

Despite this fall in financial help, student rent has continued to rise, increasing by an average of 312 per year, indicating that students are making tough decisions when it comes to budgeting in order to manage their finances. This is shown by the reduction in average weekly expenditure, which at just over 185, is down from more than 200 in 2009. Whilst more is being spent on necessities such as books and course materials (10.41 per week vs 9.50 in 2009), the luxury of longer haul travel has suffered (12.99 per week vs 20.38 in 2009). The added squeeze on finances may also be why savvy students are spending fewer hours socialising with the number putting money into savings doubling since 2009.

NatWest Student Living Index University City League Table

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

1.London (NE)14.Nottingham (19)
2.Dundee (17)15.Leeds (12)
3.Manchester (5)16.Reading (4)
4.Plymouth (13)17.Edinburgh (10)
5.Glasgow (3)18.Cardiff (14)
6.Birmingham (11)19.Brighton (1)
7.Portsmouth (15)20.Norwich (18)
8.Cambridge (8)21.Exeter (NE)
9.Oxford (9)22.Southhampton (NE)
10.Newcastle (16)23.Leicester (7)
11.Bristol (6)24.Belfast (NE)
12.Sheffield (NE)25.York (20)
13.Liverpool (2)

Rankings according to the 2009 Student Living Index are indicated in brackets after the name of each university city or town. 'NE' bracket denotes that this city or town is a 'new entry' in the research.

Tom Adamson, Head of NatWest Student Banking, said: "The results from this year's NatWest Student Living Index clearly show that savvy students are keeping their finances in check. As well as being resourceful when it comes to taking on more part-time work, more students are working over the summer to bring in extra money rather than travelling. Taking these pro-active steps to manage their finances is enabling them to continue to enjoy university life and prepare for their future."

Career post university

The Index also reveals that students are remaining optimistic about finding a career post university, but this optimism is balanced with a realistic view of the market, with the results showing that whilst almost half (48%) expect to have a job in the first year after university, it will not necessarily be their ideal job. In addition, over three quarters (76%) of students are focusing on maximising their employability through activities such as applying for internships, working instead of travelling, and working harder, aiming for higher grades in preparation for the tough graduate job market.

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


The NatWest Student Living Index was calculated as follows: for each university city and town, average local weekly student expenditure on living and accommodation costs (comprising, books and course materials, going out, buying clothes, laundry, transport costs, utility bills, telephone bills, eating out, alcohol, cigarettes, 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 25 university cities and town were ranked.

Research was conducted by The Survey Shop among a sample of 2,500 undergraduates from 25 university cities and towns across the UK.

Available for interview:

  • Tom Adamson, Head of NatWest Student and Graduate Banking.
  • Student case studies.

1 3% increase from 2009

2 Average weekly income from part-time work in London 167.48 multiplied by average length of university academic year (30 weeks)

3 5,024.40 divided by 0.64 - the price of Heinz Baked Beanz at Tesco, Asda and Ocado, based on comparison website