A Complete University Application Guide: More Offers, Less Stress

Choosing a University: Considering the Costs

Understanding exactly what your money will be spent on whilst at university, and how this differs based on location, could be crucial to deciding where to apply. 

This chapter is here to help you break down each cost to consider.  

We delve into all the ways costs come into your important university application decisions; from listing the top ten cheapest university cities, to helping you make that all important decision on whether to fly the nest. 

Already know exactly what you're looking for? Jump to University Tuition FeesFinancial HelpTravelUniversity Living CostsLiving at Home vs University

University Tuition Fees

In 2015, 76% of UK universities charged the full amount possible for their tuition fees, capped at £9,250 a year. A loan of the same size is available for most universities, although students of private institutions are only eligible for £6,000 a year loans.

Here's a break down of what you could be spending depending on whereabouts you live:

Financial help

Tuition fee loans that cover the full cost of your course are paid directly to the course provider. You won’t have to pay it back until after your course, when you’re earning above a certain level.

Maintenance loans can be applied for at the same time, lending you money at the start of each term (or monthly in Scotland). How much you get depends on your household income, where you study, where you live, and how long for.

In 2016, maintenance grants were replaced with loans for new full-time students in England. The student finance package includes a tuition fee loan and a maintenance loan. Students can still apply for grants if they’re eligible for certain benefits, disabled, or need help with childcare costs. 

You can find out more on the student finance pages on GOV.UK.

Finance expert Sean MacNicol gives us his top tips to keeping on top of the pennies at university,

When you start planning for university, it can be easy to become confused and overwhelmed by the changes to your financial responsibilities.

The first step you should take is to understand exactly how much money you need to pay for necessities like accommodation, food and household bills. Once you’ve done so, set yourself a budget for everything else, for example going out, clothes and transport.

The temptation with student loans is to borrow more than you need, but with an accurate budget plan in place, you can avoid having to make unnecessary repayments once you’ve graduated while ensuring you don’t restrict yourself too much during your student life.

Consider downloading a free personal finance app to automatically allocate helpful labels to each of your expenses so that you can instantly see where your money is going and make appropriate changes to your budget."


In the UK, there are generally two types of universities you can choose from. There are those in the centre of bustling cities, or those farther away - campus universities - which are essentially student villages.

The time it takes to make your way from class to class will primarily depend on whether your chosen university is a campus or city university.

City Universities

We spoke to Lucy, an English student at City, University of London,

With how spread out my course buildings are across the city, it can sometimes take up to 20 minutes to walk from class to class. A few of my friends have travel passes and oyster cards who find this is the best way to get around - and prices aren't too bad for students either."

Many travel companies in cities across the UK do offer discounted travel passes, but they can be pretty pricey.

It's worth noting that the majority of students living in the city centre tend to cope just fine on foot. Furthermore, Mother Nature will be revelling in the fact that the number of students opting to cycle has risen dramatically in the past few years, after choosing to leave their beloved cars at home.

Get on your bike!

If you're going to be living at university and looking for a regular city bike, it's probably better buying a full priced model, as warranties usually cover the time you're at university. 

We tested a range of bikes based on their durability and sturdiness, and Giant city bikes came on top of the pile, with many students we spoke to commenting on how reliable they are. 

If you're planning on commuting, or anticipate going home fairly often, it may be worth investing in a good quality, folding bike to get you from A to B with as little hassle as possible. 

Gumtree is a great place for second hand bikes. If you're not looking to invest in a bike just yet, you download an app like YoBike to quickly and efficiently hire a bike in some UK cities. If used wisely, for a £29 student rate for annual membership, comes out to less than 4p per ride if you use it to its full capacity. Apps like this are great options for students who are environmentally concerned, as they offer a zero-carbon way to commute.

Campus Universities

Living on campus is often a great option for the bank balance, no need to fork out on travel passes, with most amenities within a stones throw of student accommodation and university buildings. However, any trip into nearby cities for nights out will generally cost more in taxi fare.

University location and living costs

It's always worth bearing in mind the living costs associated with different UK cities. The price you'll pay for accommodation and weekly food shops varies dramatically from the North to the South, with the agreed consensus that in London you'll pay considerably more than anywhere else.

The UK's cheapest university cities:

1. Lincoln > 2. Glasgow > 3. Cardiff > 4. Belfast > 5. Leicester > 6. Newcastle > 7. Lancaster > 8. Coventry > 9. Stirling > 10. Birmingham

The UK's most expensive university cities:

1. Oxford 2. London > 3. Winchester > 4. Cambridge > 5. Chichester > 6. Brighton > 7. Bath > 8. Southampton > 9. Aberdeen > 10. Canterbury 

Living at Home Versus Living at University

Leaving home for the first time is a rite of passage, and for more and more of us that day comes when we depart for university. 

However, this path isn't for everyone. Every year, 20% of students carry on living at their parents’ home whilst they study: a total of 328,000 students in 2017. This number has shot up in recent years, correlating with higher than ever tuition fees and living costs.

Living at home

So what are the advantages of staying at home rather than flying the nest?

The primary reason students stay at home is to save money – a room in halls will set you back thousands of pounds (on average, over £5000 a year), and university fees have hit an all-time high. For many, especially in already pricey cities like London, moving out is just plain and simply unaffordable.

Beyond price, living at home often means you don’t have to give up all your creature comforts — homemade meals, clean laundry, and plenty of emotional support from your family.

Of course, living at home isn’t ideal for everyone, and it definitely has its fair share of drawbacks. 

For one, you won’t be thrust into the social circles of student halls, so making new friends is much more difficult. You’ll have to make more of an effort to put yourself out there, a tricky task if you’re commuting a long way. 

Having to figure out how to get back to your parents at 3am isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time!

Even during the day, commuting can be a real pain – you can’t just roll out of bed and be at your lecture in 10 minutes like everyone else.

Living at university

Jennifer is a student housing expert, she gives her top reasons you should consider making the big move,

Moving out gives you a real opportunity to gain independence and learn valuable life skills, from cooking a half-balanced meal, to proper budgeting so you don’t spend your entire student loan in the first week. You also don’t have to stick to a university close to home, so you’ll get the chance to explore a fresh and exciting city and enjoy all the new experiences that come with that!"

If you do choose to take the plunge into ultimate independence, you can choose from private landlords with student housing, or student accommodation linked to universities — both offering affordable options and luxury properties alike!

Can't afford university just yet? Don't worry!

Depending on your circumstances, it may make more sense for you to find a full time or part time job before applying for university, so you have more financial security whilst you're there. 

We spoke to Michael, a savvy CEO who took a gap year before attending university who achieved his dreams later in life! He now runs successful business Quote Goat, and believes that he absolutely made the right decision to take a year out.  

Studies have shown that money worries have a major impact on anxiety. To combat this, focus on the positive aspects of your day, even if they’re only small, to lift your mood and help you focus on solutions to finance problems. 

Log In