Students & Graduates

Student Living Index 2021

Fancy some insider knowledge on student life?

Doing your research

Heading to university for the first time can be exciting but scary. Research is the key to making sure you're ready for this next chapter, which can be particularly challenging under the current circumstances. You need the insider knowledge, which is where the Student Living Index provide assistance.

Working out the costs

For eight years now, we've published data to shed light on what it’s really like to be a university student. This year we asked 2,337 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 during an unsettled semester.

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

The pandemic at a glance

of students have felt supported by their university

1 in 10
were satisfied with the online teaching resources provided

were offered mental health support and resources

1 in 5
feel they’re now less likely to graduate

Which UK city is most affordable* for students?

Sheffield overtakes Manchester (2020) to become the most cost-effective city for 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 2021?

Who spends the most in their university city? Which students are able to save a little each month? Discover more about how students spend their money in some of the most popular university cities across the UK.


Student loans continue to make up the majority of students' income, with 54% of students relying on student finance to cover their rent. This has decreased since last year, as reliance on parental support and personal revenue has increased - likely due to many students choosing to live at home this year. This year's index shows 37% rely on parents or family to pay rent, while 13% use their own income and 13% use their personal savings. Overall, term-time income has increased slightly (by £30) but remains below 2019 levels on average.


For students across the UK, rent remains the biggest monthly spend, followed by supermarket shopping, clothes, and eating out. Students in Manchester spend the most money per month on clothes, shoes and accessories, while Oxford spend the most on going out or socialising with friends. The remainder of students' money is spent on alcohol, takeaways, bills, travel and activities with a small amount going to charity and investing in cryptocurrency.


In terms of managing money, almost two thirds (59%) of students attempt to budget, even if they don't always stick to it. Although most students have a flexible approach to budgeting, they generally consider themselves quite sensible with money. One in 10 (10%) find themselves overspending, 3% don't consider spending at all, and 4% have no confidence in their money management abilities.

Fraud & Scams

More than three in four students (76%) have dealt with a delivery service scam in the past year, though only 2% who were targeted lost money. Bank and HMRC Tax Rebate scams followed as the second most encountered scams, 67% and 61% of students being targeted respectively.

Studying vs. Socialising

Students are dedicating more time studying at home due to the pandemic, but they are also socialising more. On average, students study for 90 hours each month, which is a slight decrease of 7 hours year on year. On a monthly basis, students have relied heavily on socialising online, averaging 17 hours per month, while two in three students spend no time in part-time work, contributing to the rise in time spent studying and socialising.

Part-time Employment

For a third consecutive year, students continued to dedicate less time to part-time work each month, averaging at 14 hours per month. Students in Glasgow, Exeter and Newcastle spent more time in part-time work with 24, 25 and 22.4 hours respectively – well above the national average. Students in expensive cities spent the least amount of time per month in part-time work.

Mental health, wellbeing and sustainability

This year's survey also reveals how students felt their universities are dealing with other key issues such as mental health and wellbeing. It also takes a look at how students are choosing to incorporate green living and sustainable habits into their lifestyle.

Mental Health & Wellbeing

This year's index revealed that university students are less than satisfied with the mental health support during 2021, which is a 10% decrease year-on-year.

Green living

This year’s index shows that students are actively becoming more conscious about their impact on the environment.

Download the Student Living Index 2021

Are you currently attending university or still deciding where to go? Download the 2021 Student Living Index to find out which students are spending the most on rent, as well as which students are socialising the most.

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 a 4 year tastecard. Apply for an interest free overdraft up to £2,000 (£500 in first term) 18+ & subject to approval. Offer T&C’s apply.

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