The Crippling Cost Of University

Posted on: 18 August 2008 by Gareth Hargreaves

Parents step in and risk pensioner poverty as the cost of doing a degree rises dramatically.

The cost of doing a degree can now reach over £30,000.

With the cost of living so high, many parents are struggling to make ends meet themselves and so worry that they will not be able to help their children through university. Some want their children to study locally so they can live at home, or to study part-time study so they can work.

Parents who do help may be using savings that would once have been put towards a wedding or a deposit on a first home. A number of reports suggest that parents are counting the cost of funding their children's education, foregoing holidays, socialising, new cars and houses, and buying budget food. Some are taking a second job or using money that would otherwise be going into a pension, putting pay to dreams of early retirement. Others are even getting into debt themselves by remortgaging their homes or using a credit card or overdraft.

Tuition fees are obviously a huge expense, reaching a maximum of £3,145 for 2008/2009, although students can get a loan to cover them that they don't have to pay back until they are earning over £15,000.

However, unless a student qualifies for means-tested support, the additional maintenance loan may not cover all their accomodation and living costs, however. So parents end up having to fork out the difference. Some decide to give their children more money so they can graduate with less debt.

Parents shouldering the cost may be wondering where all that money goes? From extortionate accommodation and essential pasta to booze and MP3s, the cost of student living includes:

  • Books and course materials, photocopying and library costs
  • Rent
  • Utility Bills
  • Telephone Bills
  • Insurance
  • Supermarket food shopping
  • Eating Out
  • Going out
  • Alcohol & Cigarettes
  • Transport
  • Laundry
  • Buying clothes
  • Buying CDs, DVDs and videos
  • Sport & Leisure

The NatWest Student Living Index, first published in 2004, ranks Britain's major university towns by plotting average student expenditure on living and housing costs against income from term-time employment.

The full table of university towns, ranked by NatWest's Student Living Index, is as follows:


Plymouth (NE)


London (4)


Cambridge (13)


Nottingham (27) 


Dundee (3)


Lancaster (25)


Brighton (2)


Cardiff (16)


Portsmouth (NE)


Edinburgh (23)


Bristol (9)


York (21)


Leeds (1)


Leicester (6)


Liverpool (5)


Oxford (24)


Belfast (19)


Birmingham (7)


Aberdeen (18)


Swansea (NE)


Newcastle (10)


Manchester (15)


Sheffield (11)


Southampton (26)


Glasgow (8)


Exeter (NE)

Rankings according to the 2007 Student Living Index are indicated in brackets after the name of each university town.

What's Your View?

Can you afford to help your children through university? Would you give up your pension to send your children to university? Should students shoulder the debt themselves?

Are tuition fees a necessary evil or should they be scrapped? Is university worth the cost? Would you rather your children lived at home or studied part time? Do students fritter money away on alcohol and so on?

You can share your thoughts by leaving a comment below or visiting the 50connect forum.

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