Students & Graduates

Student Living
Index 2021

Want to know what students really think about university?

Research, research, research

Starting your university journey can seem daunting and it’s not always clear what to expect. Research is the essential to bridge the knowledge gap for your life’s next chapter, which can be particularly challenging under current circumstances. University websites and a prospectus will only tell you so much, you need the Student Living Index to get the inside track.

Consider all the costs

Now in its eighth year, the Student Living Index gathers valuable 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 highlight what students are spending their time and money on and how satisfied they are with all aspects of student life.

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.

UK student living costs and more

Which city’s students spend the most time socialising and which are best at budgeting? Find answers to these questions and discover so much more about how UK students are living in 2021.


The majority of students' income still consists of student loans, with 54% of students relying on student finance and grants to cover their living expenses. Despite the high percentage, this has decreased since last year, as students are more reliant on parents and personal earnings - likely due to the shift towards living and studying from home. This year’s data shows 37% of UK students rely on parents or family to pay rent, while 13% use their own income and 13% use their personal savings. Term-time income has increased slightly (by £30) but remains below 2019 levels on average overall.


Rent remains the highest monthly expense for UK students, followed by groceries, clothing, and eating out. Manchester students spend the most money per month on clothes, shoes and accessories, while Oxford students spend the most on going out and socialising. The rest of UK students' money is spent on alcohol, takeaways, bills, commuting and activities, with a small fraction spent on charity and even cryptocurrency investments.


Almost two thirds (59%) of UK students attempt to budget when it comes to managing money, even if they don't always succeed. Although most have a flexible method of budgeting, they generally consider themselves rather sensible with money. Overspending is the biggest issue for students with one in 10 (10%), whereas 3% don't consider spending at all, and 4% of UK students saying they have no confidence in their budgeting abilities.

Fraud & scams

Delivery service scams have been the most common problem, with more than three in four (74%) of UK students dealing with these issues, although only 2% who had faced this scam lost money. Banking and HMRC Tax scams followed as the second most encountered fraud methods, with 67% and 61% of students being targeted respectively.

Studying vs. Socialising

Due to the pandemic, students are dedicating more time to studying at home, but they also do socialise more. UK students study for 90 hours each month on average, which is a slight decrease of 7 hours when compared with last year. Students have also relied heavily on online social activities, averaging 17 hours per month. Two in three students do not spend any time at part-time work, contributing to the increase in time spent studying and socialising.

Part-time employment

For a third consecutive year, students continued spend less time working part-time, averaging at 14 hours per month. On the other hand, Students in Glasgow, Exeter and Newcastle spent more time in part-time work with 24, 25 and 22.4 hours respectively – higher than the national average for UK students. Interestingly, those studying in expensive cities spent the least amount of time per month in part-time work despite higher living costs.

Mental health, wellbeing and sustainability

This year's survey also reveals how students felt their universities are performing on issues that matter to them – mental health, wellbeing and sustainability. It also takes a look at how students are choosing to incorporate green habits into their lifestyle.

Mental Health & Wellbeing

When compared with the 2020 index data, this year’s university students are less than satisfied with the mental health support during 2021, leading to a 13% decrease year-on-year. Scottish universities scored below the national average, with only 13% of students in Glasgow and 11% of Edinburgh students being satisfied with mental health resources and support.

Green Living

Across the UK, students are progressively becoming more aware of how their lives impact the environment – with only 8% of UK students reporting not making any effort to live more sustainability. Edinburgh leads in some aspects of green living, with over a half of students consciously trying to reduce their carbon footprints, whilst also leading in buying second-hand items with 55% of students – 11% above the national average.

Download the Student Living Index 2021

Are you already at 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’re here to help you stay on top of your finances

We understand the current circumstances can add pressure on student budgets. Our introduction to student finance could help you find out more about the financial support that might be available to you.

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.

Is there anything we can help you with?