University Students Left With ‘50p A Week To Live On After Rent’

There's an incredibly harsh reality facing students after rent prices have soared - and it's affecting their studies.

Written byBen Hayward
Published on
Read time4 min read

University students in England are left with just 50p a week to live on from their loans after paying for their accommodation, research has revealed.

With living costs soaring, student maintenance loans are now almost entirely wiped out by rent alone, the cost of which has risen by nearly 15% over the last two years, according to a report by the student accommodation charity Unipol and the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi).

With average student rents in England now at £7,566 per year and with the average maintenance loan expected to be £7,590 this year, that leaves students with a meagre £24 a year to cover their living costs - the equivalent of 109 tins of Lidl baked beans, so roughly two tins of beans a week. 

Even in the case of the maximum loan amount - which only the poorest students are entitled to - the proportion eaten up by rent is still more than three-quarters (76%). Compared to an expectation that rent should account for no more than 30% of income, this is massively affecting the student purse. 

Average annual student rents in the academic year 2023-24 in selected UK university cities *


The report focuses on student rental markets in 10 major regional university cities outside London and Edinburgh, finding that students in Bristol pay the highest on average at an eye watering £9,200 (+9% over the last two years). 

Next on the list is Exeter at £8,559 (+16%), followed by Nottingham (up 15% to £8,427) and Leeds (also up almost 15% to £7,627) then Glasgow, which has seen the biggest percentage rise of over 20% to £7,548. 

Liverpool, Cardiff and Sheffield were the most affordable of those surveyed, with lower rents and smaller annual increases.

Speaking to The Guardian, Natalia Gromek, 22, who studied psychology at Bristol University, said working-class students were in danger of being priced out of going to university in some cities. 

“Despite receiving the maximum maintenance loan, I didn’t have parents who could support me financially and I struggled with how expensive it was to live,” she said.


“There is nothing wrong with students taking out part-time jobs, but I had to work three full days, which really impacted my ability to fit in adequate study time and made my experience pretty stressful,” she said. “Working-class students are underrepresented in Bristol because it is so hard to live there without financial support from family. 

Nick Hillman, Hepi director, said: “Across most of the UK, the official levels of maintenance support simply do not cover anything like most students’ actual living costs. 

In the short term, maintenance support should be increased at least in line with inflation. For the longer term, we need measures to encourage the supply of new student housing, which is currently restricted by factors such as higher interest rates and confusion over new regulation.”


A spokesperson for Universities UK, which represents 142 universities, said: “Universities will continue to support students, but we need government to help address this. The 2.8% rise in maintenance support announced for students in England is inadequate and will not cover the real-terms cut to maintenance that students have experienced since inflation began to rise.”

The Department for Education said the highest levels of support are targeted at students from the lowest-income families but if students are worried they should speak to their university. “To support universities to help their students we are making £276m available this academic year, which institutions can use to top up their own hardship schemes,” it said.

* Guardian graphic. Sources: Unipol, Hepi. Data collected from student accommodation providers operating 125,913 beds, including universities operating own accommodation as well as private providers. Edinburgh and London excluded to give balanced view of averages outside of expensive capitals

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