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Top 50 Most Affordable Places for University Students Revealed in New UK Map

A new map and university ranking table created by credit experts TotallyMoney offers guidance to students searching for the UK’s most affordable place to study based on living costs. The research and data puts Bangor University on top — 47 places ahead of its Times Higher Education (THE) ranking.

  • Bangor University in North Wales ranks number one, boasting the cheapest meal for two (£10) and cheapest pint (£2.09)
  • Wales is the most affordable place in the UK for students with three of the four Welsh universities surveyed making the top 10
  • Cappuccinos are Manchester’s downfall with £2.66 frothy coffees contributing to its coming third
  • A strong show from The Midlands: Nottingham and Leicester both make the top five and Loughborough makes top 20
  • Last 10 spots all taken by London universities, suggesting it’s the priciest place for students in 2019

To create the table TotallyMoney looked at eight cost of living factors. Each factor is widely thought of as important to students: university hall accommodation, gym membership, restaurant meal for two, cappuccino cost, cinema ticket, price of a pint in Wetherspoons, large donner kebab, and cost of an Uber to the university’s listed town or city. Bangor University came top of the class thanks to its cheap pints, meals for two and very reasonable £83 per week rent in university halls. The University of Nottingham took second place thanks to pints for £2.25, cheap kebabs (£4.80) and low-cost gym memberships (£10.49). The University of Manchester picks up Third Class honours. While it has one of the cheapest weekly rents (£75) and gym memberships (£18.90), as well as the joint cheapest cab (£3.50), it was let down by coffee prices. Students here can expect to pay £2.66 for a cappuccino, which is just 20 pence cheaper than Cambridge (£2.86), which is the most expensive.  

Affordability results set to fan the flames of national and local rivalries

The area graduating with a First-Class degree in affordability is Wales. Not only is it home to our first-place winner, Bangor University, but Aberystwyth University and Swansea University also make the top 10. Aberystwyth comes joint first with Bangor for cheapest meal and although Cardiff University was placed nineteenth, it offers cheap £3.50 cab fares. Top of the Scots is the University of Glasgow. It came seventeenth in the overall rankings, beating the likes of St Andrews (21), Edinburgh (32) and Aberdeen (34). Cheaper kebab prices (£5.99), £3.50 cabs, lower gym costs (£26.25) and £12 meals for two clinched it for Glasgow. These results also add more fuel to the fire for old university rivals Oxford and Cambridge. While Cambridge may have sailed past Oxford in this year’s Boat Race, it’s a double win for Oxford in the league tables. Not only did the University of Oxford top the THE rankings, they also finished 14 places ahead of Cambridge in terms of affordability.  

Repeat year for London universities

Unsurprisingly, the place that could do with attending a few more lectures in student-friendly prices is London. Findings from 2018 showed similar results. All 10 of the bottom table spots are taken by London universities. The most startling figures show a £102 difference between the weekly rent of the most affordable university halls in the UK (University of Edinburgh, £65.55) and the most expensive found in London (St George’s, University of London, £168). Accommodation prices aren’t the only area London universities fail in. It’s also the most expensive for an Uber (£50 per ride, Royal Holloway, University of London). Going to the cinema is as much as £13 (all London unis). And a pint of beer is just shy of £4 (UCL).

Surprise results

Like an essay written at the eleventh-hour that gets an unexpected high mark, the data returned some surprising results, too. For example, York has the most expensive gym costs at almost £70 a month. Queen’s University Belfast has the most expensive large donner kebab price at £8.95 (nearly double the cost of the cheapest in Lancaster). The most expensive rent outside of London can be found at the University of Liverpool (£138.46). And Edinburgh seems keen to drink student bank accounts dry with their £3.75 pints — the priciest beyond the Big Smoke. Commenting on the rankings, map and findings, TotallyMoney’s James McCaffrey said: “Studying the cost of rent, coffees, accommodation, cinema tickets and cabs might seem trivial, but cost of living can influence where someone chooses to study. “It’s the difference between whether they can afford to move away from home for uni. Or not. “Our rankings and map are an affordability guide for students. For example, if the gym is important then Nottingham could be a great shout (and especially useful to offset those cheap beers and kebabs). Or if pubs and clubs are the priority the affordability of first place Bangor or third place Manchester would work well. “And while university is a time for lectures, learning and preparing for the world of work, it may also be the first time many young adults experience managing their finances. Understanding how to stretch their money so they can cover rent, bills and shopping and still have money left for beer… Well, that’s a life-lesson worth paying for.”

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