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Data on the Which? Student Budget Calculator

Our research methodology for the Which? Student Budget Calculator

In this article
What is Which?'s student budget calculator? Calculating living and food costs
Calculating accommodation costs

What is Which?'s student budget calculator?

Our budget calculator shows you the average monthly living costs for students in the UK, adjusted for regional price differences for your selected university. 

We’ve had to make some assumptions when crunching these numbers. We've also excluded anyone who did not spend any money on a particular category, from our calculations. 

Therefore, use these figures as an indication of regional costs and average student spending, rather than an absolute measure. Your own spending will vary, so think about what you’ll need to budget for, based on your circumstances (and replace/add in your costs where appropriate). 

For each cost category, you can tell us your own (predicted) level of spending (either high, low, medium or zero), or enter an exact figure, so we can further personalise these figures: 

  • Medium = median ie 50% of students who spent on this category
  • High = 75th percentile ie 75% of students who spent on this category
  • Low = 25th percentile ie 25% of students who spent on this category

Calculating living and food costs

We've used Living Costs and Food Survey from Office of National Statistics, which is a nationally representative household expenditure survey to calculate average student spending.

In order to get a large enough sample, we used four waves of this survey – 2014-15, 2015-16, 2016-17 and 2017-18, reclassifying the expenditure categories to the Which? Expenditure Classification and using the National Statistics-Socioeconomic Classification (NS-SEC) to identify the students within the data. Expenditure figures were adjusted for inflation.

We've grouped the data in the various categories you see on the calculator and calculated the median, as well as the 25th and 75th percentiles.

This data has been adjusted by geographical area – South West, London, South East, Northern Ireland, East of England, East Midlands, Scotland, Yorkshire and The Humber, West Midlands, North East, Wales, North West – using the regional price relative level from the ONS’s Relative Regional Consumer Price Levels. 

Calculating accommodation costs

Halls of residence

We've collated halls of residence prices advertised on individual university websites (correct as of September 2019). Our calculator shows you the cheapest and most expensive self-catered halls (and, where applicable, catered halls) we found. Prices for twin or shared rooms are calculated per person, rather than per room.

Where universities provided weekly rental costs, we sourced the number of weeks in their contracts to calculate the monthly cost. Where we have been unable to source this information we assumed a contract length of 52 weeks.

Here is a list of those universities:

  • Buckingham, University of
  • Academy of Contemporary Music
  • Pearson College London (including Escape Studios)
  • Duchy College
  • Cleveland College of Art and Design
  • Cornwall College
  • Futureworks Manchester Media School
  • SRUC Scotland’s Rural College (Barony)
  • SRUC Scotland’s Rural College (Ayr)
  • South Essex College

Private halls rents

Where a university has not displayed halls of residence information on their site (ie because they don't offer their own), we've collected the cheapest self-catered private accommodation provider they have signposted instead (as of September 2018). 

Private rentals

We've used the 2011 Census Output Area Classifications to identify the areas students were most likely to live and mapped these neighbourhoods to universities (within an estimated 30 minutes driving time). 

We asked SpareRoom to provide us with all their listings from September 2018 to August 2019 for those areas and used the prices on the listings to provide the median rental price for private properties around each university. 

Where rental data was unavailable for the student area surrounding the university, we took the average private rent for universities (where data was available) in the same government office region. The following universities use this imputation approach can be found in this dropdown.


Where rental data was unavailable for student areas

  • Accrington and Rossendale College
  • Greater Brighton Metropolitan College (formerly Northbrook College and City College)
  • University of Brighton
  • College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise
  • Ulster University
  • Lakes College West Cumbria
  • University of Essex
  • Doncaster College and University Centre
  • DN Colleges Group
  • University Centre Grimsby
  • Blackpool and the Fylde College
  • Hereford College of Arts
  • University of Hull
  • SRUC Scotland's Rural College (Ayr)
  • University of the West of Scotland (Ayr)
  • College of West Anglia
  • University Campus Barnsley
  • Coleg Sir Gar
  • University of Wales Trinity Saint David (Carmarthen)
  • Bridgwater and Taunton College
  • Harper Adams University
  • Sussex Coast College Hastings
  • Selby College

Additionally, we had very few listings available for some universities. We had less than 30 listings available for the following universities:

  • Bicton College
  • University Centre Hartpury
  • Royal Agricultural University
  • University of Huddersfield
  • University of Suffolk
  • Edge Hill University
  • Glyndwr University, Wrexham
  • Coleg Llandrillo
  • University of Buckingham
  • Milton Keynes College
  • University Centre Peterborough
  • University of Chichester
  • University of Wales Trinity Saint David (Lampeter)
  • South Essex College of Further and Higher Education
  • Teesside University
  • Cleveland College of Art and Design
  • University of Wolverhampton
  • University Centre Reaseheath
  • SRUC Scotland's Rural College (Barony)
  • University of the West of Scotland (Dumfries)
  • University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI)
  • Duchy College
  • Cornwall College