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The high cost of living

Lea Corbin surveys rents for students in the various cities in the UK

Students attending some of the top UK universities pay higher rents than their peers in less prestigious institutions, according to the latest survey from Accommodation for Students (www.accommodationforstudents.com).

According to The Complete University Guide for 2016, the UK’s top universities are in the most expensive cities for student accommodation. Students attending the UK’s six leading universities (Cambridge, Oxford, Imperial College London, London School of Economics, Exeter and the University of Surrey) pay up to £58 more per week than the national average, the survey reveals.

The report is based on indicators including graduate employment prospects, entry requirements, student satisfaction and the institution’s research. It is worth noting that Oxford, Cambridge and Imperial College London are also respectively ranked in third, fifth and ninth position in Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings.

Results suggest that students living in south-east England (the counties around London) pay a higher rent than students living in the north of England, Wales and Scotland. The UK’s world-class universities tend to be in dynamic cities which are popular places to live, which tends to mean higher rents.

Cities with the most expensive average weekly rental values include London (£140), Cambridge (£124), Kingston (£115), Aberdeen (£109) and Guildford (£104).

All of these cities are located in south-east England, with the exception of Cambridge, historically known for its prestigious university, and most surprisingly Aberdeen in Scotland. The city is the centre of the UK oil industry but is in quite a remote location, so accommodation is at a premium.

However there are important variations in rents within the most expensive cities. In London for instance, rents range from £80 to £195 a week. Likewise Plymouth, Exeter, Nottingham and Liverpool have the greatest variations, with a difference of up to £146 between the lowest and highest rents in these cities. 

In contrast, Bolton (£62), Middlesbrough (£62), Stockton (£49) and Walsall (£48) in north or west England offer student accommodation at the lowest weekly rent average. However none of these universities appear in the top thirty of the 2016 Complete University Guide’s league table.

An exception is Lancaster in the north-west. Lancaster University is in the top ten in the Guide, making Lancaster the only city where average student rent falls below the national average of £78 a week.

Still, in comparison to previous years, rents remain relatively stable, and more landlords are offering some utility bills included in the rent. Simon Thompson, director of Accommodation For Students, says, ‘Bills-inclusive rental options are increasingly prevalent, which shows landlords are reacting to student needs. Anything which helps students to manage their finances is appealing and I think this trend will continue to grow over the next few years as the cost of attending university creeps up.’

Students in Scotland and Wales pay less than in England, with a usual rent value of respectively £72.81 and £69.09 per week.

Tuition fees for ‘other EU’ students are different as well. The maximum tuition fee for an undergraduate degree course in 2015 for Scottish and EU students is £1,820 in Scotland, while it is £9,000 in England and Wales.

Finally, trends indicate that international students tend to be favoured by universities when allocating rooms in their halls of residence, but often students will have to find independent accommodation after their first year of study as halls prioritize first-year students. Additionally, many campus universities in northern England still have catering halls, but these aren’t as appealing to students as they used to be.