56% of students are struggling financially, here’s Britain’s cheapest student digs to help your loan go further

Analysis by UniHomes, the UK’s leading student accommodation platform, has found that more than half of students struggle to get by financially, with food, travel and course materials eating away most at their student loan once the rent is paid.

UniHomes asked UK students if their student loan provided them with enough money to live comfortably? 56% stated that it didn’t and they struggled, while a further 30% stated they could just about get by on it.

No surprise then, that 54% of students have had to get a job while at university in order to supplement their student loan.

UniHomes also asked them which area of life swallowed up the largest amount of their loan once rent was accounted for? The research found that food costs were the biggest outgoing for 49% which makes sense given its essential role in keeping us alive!

University itself accounted for the largest outgoing for 18%, with travel to and from uni ranking high (10%) along with the cost of course materials (8%).

Despite the general stereotype of student life, just 2% stated that nights out in bars, clubs and restaurants accounted for the biggest proportion of spend after rent. Although, this could be due to current lockdown restrictions dampening the student social scene.

These additional outgoings all add up, but when it comes to making your student loan last, it’s the cost of renting that ranks as the most substantial outgoing a student is required to cover.

The average student loan debt currently totals as much as £40,000 over the course of three years, amounting to £13,333 per year. However, the varying cost of renting around Britain means that the proportion of this loan required to cover the cost of renting can differ depending on your university of choice.

The cheapest areas in Britain

The most reasonable area of Britain for student rental affordability is the North East. Those heading to North East based universities, such as Newcastle and Durham, will pay an average of £108 per week or £4,104 per term year, equating to 31% of their annual student loan.

The next most affordable is the West Midlands, home to universities like Warwick and Birmingham, with typical student rents at £112 per person, per week accounting for 32% of the annual student loan.

Wales, home to the likes of Cardiff University, is the next cheapest in Britain, with weekly rents of £113, amounting to £4,294 annually requiring 32% of the yearly student loan.

After that comes Yorkshire and the Humber, the East Midlands and the North West, all of which command rents costing a third (33%) of the average student’s yearly loan.

London and the South East – the most expensive

At the other end of the spectrum is London. Home to some of Britain’s top universities such as Imperial College London, student rents in the capital average at £162 per week.

At a total cost of £6,156 per year, the average student in London is required to spend 46% of their annual student loan just to cover the cost of renting. Although with the capital providing such as high level social and educational offering, it’s arguably money well spent.

Similarly in the South East, home to the University of Oxford, rents make up 46% of a students yearly debt.

Meanwhile, in both the South West and East of England, home to universities like Bath and Cambridge respectively, rents make up 38% of student loan debt.

Co-Founder of UniHomes, Phil Greaves commented:

“Attending university is a great life experience but for many, it’s one that requires additional financial support in the form of a student loan and often a job while you’re there.

One of the heftiest costs incurred while at university will be the cost of renting and many students will see a good proportion of their student loan go towards covering this primary outgoing. One way to help soften the blow is by searching for a student home where the rent also includes bills.

We’ve built our property search platform on this basis as it brings a huge benefit to students, allowing them to keep a better tab on their outgoings from month to month due to the cost never fluctuating.

However, it’s important to remember that there remains a whole host of other costs that need to be covered, from the essentials such as food, course materials and travel, to the social aspects that go hand in hand with university life.

Our analysis reveals that students can make their loan work harder by reducing their initial rental costs depending on where they choose to go to university. The most substantial savings can be made in the North East, West Midlands and Wales, leaving students with the largest proportion of their loan left once the cost of renting is covered.

Whilst they’re exciting and diverse, London and the South East are significantly more expensive for student tenants than anywhere else, so we’d ask students to take their other outgoings into consideration when applying for institutions in those areas. However, the good news is that students choosing the capital for their further education endeavours will generally be eligible for more funding to help cover this cost.”


Survey of 1,012 UK students carried out by Find Out Now (2nd February 2021).

Does your student loan provide you with enough money to live comfortably?
Answer Respondents
No, I struggle 56%
Yes, just about 30%
Yes, plenty 13%
Have you had to get a job at uni in order to get by financially?
Answer Respondents
Yes 54%
No 46%
Apart from rent, which of the below do you spend the largest amount of your student loan on?
Answer Respondents
Food 49%
Travelling to and from uni 10%
Course Materials 8%
Travelling to and from my hometown 4%
Alcohol 4%
Clothes 2%
Nights out in bars or clubs 1%
Nights out at restaurants 1%
Prefer not to say 21%



Location Average student rent per week Average student rent per term year Average student loan debt per year* Annual student rent as a proportion of annual student loan debt
London £162 £6,156 £13,333 46%
South East £150 £5,700 £13,333 43%
South West £135 £5,130 £13,333 38%
East of England £133 £5,054 £13,333 38%
Scotland £127 £4,826 £13,333 36%
North West £117 £4,446 £13,333 33%
East Midlands £116 £4,408 £13,333 33%
Yorkshire and the Humber £116 £4,408 £13,333 33%
Wales £113 £4,294 £13,333 32%
West Midlands region £112 £4,256 £13,333 32%
North East £108 £4,104 £13,333 31%
Sources Save the Student UK Parliament Average annual rent/average annual student loan debt
*Annual student loan debt based on the average loan of £40,000 incurred by borrowers who finished a three year undergraduate course in 2019.