• Average student monthly rents have increased by 30% since 2022
  • More than two in five (46%) students run out of money before the end of the semester  
  • Bournemouth tops the NatWest Student Living Index as most affordable place


Edinburgh is the most expensive place in the UK for students to live once again, as revealed in the NatWest Student Living Index. The index takes account of student income and living costs to calculate a score for university towns and cities across the UK.


The NatWest Student Living Index surveyed 3,052 students to determine the most affordable place to study. The survey takes into account how much students spend on going out and the income they earn from part-time work.


This year has shown that rent has increased by an average of 30% for students, with the national average monthly rent now at £591.90. London is the most expensive city in the UK for students to rent, with an average cost of £840.30 per month.

Supermarket spend continues to be the second biggest outlay for students outside of rent, with monthly spend seeing a sizeable jump. It’s up by 44% year-on-year, rising to £109.57 each month.


In Edinburgh, students have a monthly term-time income of £1,453, the lowest of all the cities ranked, while their total monthly spending stands at £1,072.61. Students in Edinburgh are working more in part time jobs and is the only city which has seen an increase in the part-time working hours of students when compared to 2022.


In contrast to Edinburgh, Bournemouth tops the list of UK cities as the most affordable, taking the top spot from Cardiff. Higher-than-average term-time incomes contributed to Bournemouth being named the most affordable student location.   


The average term-time income for students in the city sits at £3,296.64, the second highest of all the cities surveyed. They spend an average of £1,225.05 in total – however this is the second highest of all the cities in the Student Living Index. In comparison to other cities, just over seven in ten (73%) students use their loan as their primary source of income.


London is now the most expensive place for a pint, with students expecting to pay £5.51 per drink, followed by Cambridge with an expected average cost of £5.07. This contrasts with Lancaster, where students can expect to pay just £3.81.


Nearly half of students (46%) have found themselves running out of money by the end of term – up from 35% in 2022. Almost one in four students (24%) said they found managing their money stressful – an increase of 29% compared to last year. This is most pronounced in Bournemouth.


In a sign that the cost-of-living squeeze is starting to hit home, students are spending an average of 24% less on going out than the previous year.


Some 40% felt their university offered no support to help them with the cost-of-living crisis, up from a quarter in 2022. Bournemouth had the highest number of students who felt they had no support from their university at 58%, compared to 16% of students in Lancaster.


Nine in ten students (90%) said they had made changes to their lifestyle in order to live within their budgets. That number jumps to 96% in Glasgow, Bournemouth and Cardiff.


Reducing the number of items bought online is the biggest change that students have made to live within their budgets in the last academic year, at 67%. While 51% of students said they’d reduced the number of nights out they go on. More than three in ten (34%) said they had reduced the number of meals they eat per day.


While the majority of students haven’t considered leaving or ending their course early due to financial difficulties, it is something on their minds. One in five (21%) said they had considered it but would find a way to manage, while 29% said it was a concern for them.


Jaimala Patel, Head of NatWest Student Accounts, said: “An increased reliance on student loans and double digit increases in spending on food shopping and rent is having a real impact on student finances. There are some reassuring signs that students feel far more comfortable budgeting than in previous years, and they are taking steps to live within their means. We provide a range of tools to help students, including spend categorisation in our mobile app and a Round Ups tool to help develop a strong savings habit.”


The NatWest Student account offers a £100 cash incentive within the first 10 days of opening the account, a four-year Tastecard membership and an interest free overdraft (subject to status). NatWest also offers free Financial Health Checks and Know Your Credit Score to help students with their finances.


Find out more at www.natwest.com/students         


The full Student Index is available to read on the NatWest website.


This is for media use only and is not a financial promotion


£100 cash incentive

Student account eligibility criteria apply. Apply online. Offer terms and conditions apply. £100 cash incentive is a limited time offer available until 30th November 2023. Offer can be withdrawn at any time. If you have received a student offer from NatWest at any time from 1st July 2020 you will not be eligible.

Learn more about the NatWest Student Bank Account £100 cash incentive offer


Student bank accounts

- To apply, you must be 17+ and have been living in the UK for at least 3 years. Online applications only.

- You need to be a full time undergraduate student (on at least a 2-year course at a UK University/College) or you need to be completing a full time postgraduate or nursing course lasting a year or more. You can apply within 6 months of your course start date.


To apply for an overdraft, you need be:

- aged 18+

- using your Student account as your main account by depositing regular income into it.

- You can add an overdraft to your account once your course has started.


Know Your Credit Score

Free for ages 18+ with a UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man address, following successful registration. Data provided by TransUnion.


Mobile app

App available to customers aged 11+ with compatible iOS and Android devices and a UK or international mobile number in specific countries.


Round ups

Rounds Ups is available to customers with an eligible current account, instant access

savings account and the Mobile App. Once you’ve set it up, it’ll automatically work with all debit card and contactless device payments (in sterling).


Spending tool

You must be aged 16+. Only available for Personal and Premier accounts.


Notes to editors

NatWest’s Student Living Index covers 63 university cities and towns, looking at the spending habits, lifestyle and cost of living for students across the UK and uses the information to determine the most affordable city for students to live in. Questions around the cost of living applied to the location in which the student lived while studying, while questions pertaining to aspects of university life such as stress and support were based on the university they attended.


Audience: n=3,052 University Students Living in the UK

Survey period: 11th May – 5th June 2023. Respondents were given a small incentive to take part in an online survey. The survey was unbranded for all respondents.

Panel Provider: RedBrick: Experts in education, research, technology and charity and third sector research.



- Andrew Neilson

- Andrew.neilson@natwest.com

- 0777 197 3550

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