Student living costs more concerning than tuition fees

Grace Dean discusses recent statistics related to degree funding.

Grace Dean
17th November 2019
Image: George Hodan at
A recent report published by The Higher Education Policy Institute has shown that students are significantly more concerned about living costs than tuition fees.

In light of the Augar Review, which saw an independent post-18 education and funding Review Panel chaired by Philip Augar making suggestions of how university degrees should be financed and funding, the Higher Education Policy Institute issued a survey via polling company YouthSight which was completed by over 1000 full-time undergraduates.

The findings show that the cost of living is the top funding concern for 59% of students, while 18% are more concerned about tuition fees and 23% place them equally. Newcastle University estimates that UK-domiciled students studying their undergraduate degree at the University require between £9500 and £10,5000 for living costs each year.

Cost of living is the top funding concern for 59% of students, compared to 18% for tuition fees

Despite these funding worries, 49% of students say they would choose to move away from home even if this cost them more, while 38% of students say they would live at home to reduce their outgoings. The remaining 13% are undecided. The survey similarly shows that this desire for independent living influences an individual’s choice of university, with 57% of students stating that moving out was important to them when applying to university. Newcastle University regard accommodation fees as the largest source of living cost expenditure for most students, costing between £335 and £715 per month. This varies greatly depending on factors such as location, en-suite or studio facilities and length of the contract. announced Newcastle to be the UK’s 17th most affordable university town, which may come as a surprise to many students. This high expenditure may be due to Newcastle’s reputation as a party city: findings by Natwest show that students at Newcastle University spend on average £47.40 per month on alcohol.

52% of students receive contributions from their parents towards their living costs, among which half receive over £1000 each year. Research in Natwest’s Student Living Index 2019 suggests that on average parents contribute £222 to each child’s living costs each month.

When questioned about Augar’s proposed amendments to the tuition fee model, which has aroused intense debate among higher education policy experts, 40% of students say they prefer the current system of £9250 paid back over 30 years, while 41% prefer Augar’s approach of £7500 paid off over 40 years. 79% of students say the level of interest charged is a “quite” or “very important” aspect of the funding system compared to other repayment terms such as the fee level or time limit of repayment.

The abolishment of maintenance grants for the 2016/17 academic year attracted widespread criticism, and was seen by many as a regress in attempts to widen participation at universities. The reintroduction of such grants for disadvantaged students was one of many financial recommendations proposed by Augar in his review, and supported by evidence that most graduates fail to pay back their maintenance loans over the 30 year timeframe. Among those surveyed by YouthSight, 53% of students show support for a mixed system of maintenance grants and loans, while 32% say they would prefer grants only, meaning that none of the Student Finance contributions provided to students to support their living costs would be paid back. Only 16% of those polled show support for the current maintenance system in England, which is loan only. 

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AUTHOR: Grace Dean
Editor-in-Chief of the Courier 2019/20, News Editor 2018/19, writer since 2016 and German & Business graduate. I've written for all of our sections, but particularly enjoy writing breaking news and data-based investigative pieces. Best known in the office for making tea and blasting out James Blunt. Twitter: @graceldean

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