Students & Graduates

Student Living Index 2022

Fancy some insider knowledge on student life?

The benefits of research

Heading to university for the first time can be exciting. It’s a chance to meet new people and explore a new city. But it’s also natural to feel a bit nervous or even scared. Some careful research can help you prepare for this next chapter in your life. You’ll need some insider knowledge, which is where the NatWest Student Living Index comes in. From money management to wellbeing, we’ve got it covered.

Working out your costs

For nine years now, our in-depth survey and data have shed light on what it’s really like to be a university student. This year, we asked 2,964 students across 21 university cities to share how much they spend on essentials, their budgeting methods and how they manage their time between socialising and studying. We also asked them about the impact of the UK’s cost of living crisis

How has the continued pandemic affected students in the UK?

After the first lockdown last year, universities have made efforts to provide accessible teaching resources and mental health support for students. But not enough is being done across the UK, with many students feeling they've not had the support they needed. This year’s index reflects some of the challenges students have faced and the potential long-term implications on their education

Student living at a glance

of universities offered online wellbeing programmes

of students found summer exams more stressful than expected

of thrifty students swapped to own brand groceries

30 hours
or more was spent socialising compared to 2021

Which UK city is most affordable* for students?

Cardiff has overtaken Sheffield (2021) to become the most cost-effective city for UK 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 2022?

Who spends the most in their university city? Which students can save a little each month? From income sources and budgeting to fraud and part-time employment, discover how students spend and manage their money in some of the most popular university cities.


Student loans now account for almost half (49%) of students’ monthly income. This has edged down from 2021, with parental support and personal income playing a bigger role. ​  However, less than one in five students cover their rent with personal income. Parents and family account for 44%.  Average monthly term-time income has climbed 65% this year. Coventry, Leicester and Manchester students lead the way. Those in Edinburgh, London and Glasgow are at the other end of the scale.


Averaging out at £76.29, supermarket spending is still the top monthly outgoing for students. However, spending on household bills has become a growing issue, more than doubling since last year’s survey. The lifting of Covid-19 restrictions has boosted spending on going out. This has jumped 63% since 2021. Meanwhile, monthly spending on fashion has gone up 39%.  Total average monthly spending stands at £1,157, with Leicester, Coventry and Manchester leading the way. Cambridge, Edinburgh and London students spend the least.


More than a quarter (28%) of students now feel confident when it comes to budgeting and managing their money.  Some 27% say they budget carefully and track their spending, with only 2% saying they have no confidence at all when it comes to managing their finances.  Yet 35% said they were running out of money by the end of their term, a rise of eight percentage points. Meanwhile, over a third are short of funds before the end of the month, up from 25% last year.  The cost of living crisis is also weighing on minds, with 88% of students changing their lifestyle to keep within their budget. Reducing online shopping is the most common change (47%).

Fraud & Scams

Students continue to be the target for fraud and scams, with one in four coming across a bank scam in 2022. HM Revenue and Customs tax rebate and delivery service scams followed (both 16%).  Other common scams over the past year have revolved around investments (11%), third-party tuition payers (8%) and visas (6%). Census scams (2%) were the least commonly reported among students nationally

Studying versus Socialising

The end of lockdown restrictions has fuelled a rise in going out and socialising. Over 71 hours a month are now spent socialising and going out, an increase of around 30 hours.  Students are spending slightly less time studying compared to 2021. But the monthly average still stands at 84 hours, making it the most time-consuming activity overall.  Spending has jumped across all activities, rising from £10 a month to £67 for academic studies, and from £43 to £70 for going out/socialising. Spending on hobbies (£92) and home entertainment (£61) has also surged dramatically this year.

Part-time Employment

Time spent working in part-time employment has doubled since 2021, with the end of lockdown restrictions perhaps creating new opportunities. Income from work has also risen by 35% compared to the 2021 survey. Some 21% of students nationally pay for their rent using their own income.   Term-time work contributes an average of £130 to students’ income each month. That is up from £97 last year. Holiday work contributes £89, which is also a significant increase on last year’s £72.

Mental health, wellbeing and sustainability

This year’s survey also reveals how students feel universities are dealing with the key issues of mental health and wellbeing. It shows how students are building green and sustainable habits into their lifestyles too.

Mental Health & Wellbeing

University study is proving stressful for 31% of UK students. However, this is 12 percentage points lower than in 2021. Stress levels are highest among Glasgow and Coventry students (both 43%). Edinburgh students are the least stressed (7%).  The lifting of Covid-19 restrictions appears to have improved enjoyment levels, with 36% now enjoying their degree.  When it comes to mental health support, 26% of students feel very dissatisfied with the services they receive from their university. Only 5% are very satisfied.

Green living

This year’s index reveals students are still very conscious about their environmental impact, with recycling and green transport among their top priorities.  Overall, more than half (57%) take steps to recycle their waste. Some 36% use different methods of transport to reduce their carbon footprint, meanwhile.

Download the Student Living Index 2022

Are you currently attending university or still deciding where to go? Read our 2022 Student Living Index in full to discover which students are spending the most on rent, who the most sociable are, and much more.

We could help you manage your finances

We understand how the current circumstances can add pressure on student budgets. Visit our support hub for students to find out what financial support is available to you. 

Need a student bank account?

Our Student bank account comes with £80 cash and a four-year tastecard. Apply for an interest-free overdraft up to £2,000 (£500 in first term). 18+ and subject to approval. Offer T&Cs apply.


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