Choosing universities this UCAS deadline day? Think about rent.

If you’re a student crossing your fingers and sending in your UCAS application today, how are you ranking your preferences? And how will you choose when you get your offers?

Ask most people for advice and they’ll reel off a familiar and worthy set of reasons. It might be the league tables in your subject area, the prestige of the university or the proximity (maybe distance!) from your parents’ home. All of these are good reasons to choose, but original research from The Money Charity this year shows not only that rents are rising overall, but that there’s a huge range in the amount students pay for rooms depending on where they go – one that will make a massive difference to your quality of life when you’re studying.image 3

Choose Swansea University and you can find a self-catered shared dorm for just £2,375 a year and a single room for £2,394. Pick Liverpool and you’ll not find a room for less than £4,772.90 for a 39-week contract.

Once rent is paid, loans and grants available for an English student from an average income family will stretch to £118 a week in Swansea but just £56 in Merseyside. This money has to pay for everything from food, travel and clothes to course books and phone bills, so it’s a massive part of the choice any prospective student should make. One is a healthy sum; the other means a daily struggle or a desperate call to mum and dad.

Recognising that cost is a huge part of the choices students make, every year The Money Charity provides our Student Money Manual, the essential guide to managing money at university. It’s full of tips, big and small, to help manage finances, but no single choice will have a bigger implication for your finances than the rent you pay. If you study in London, you receive significantly more support in loans and grants that outside, so comparing London and non-London rents is not helpful. We have only listed universities outside London here. Here’s what the Universities charge for their cheapest 37-41 week contacts: Top five cheapest universities:

  1. Ulster University – £2,109
  2. Keele University- £2,220
  3. Edinburgh University – £2,238 (shared)
  4. Teesside University – £2,298
  5. University of Bath – £2,356 (shared)

And an honourable mention goes to Oxford and Cambridge. Because they offer rooms for only 30 weeks during their short terms, Oxbridge colleges have some of the cheapest rooms to rent with the cheapest being Oxford Somerville and Cambridge Trinity Hall which both have rooms on offer for less than £2,000. Great, so long as you can stay with your parents over the holidays! The priciest five*:

  1. University of Liverpool – £4,723
  2. Durham University – £4,651
  3. Dundee University – £4,510
  4. Bath Spa University – £4,356 (shared)
  5. Nottingham University – £4,355

There is nothing intuitive about the price of halls. The most expensive large university in the country is in one of the cheapest cities to rent in, and Bath sports both the fifth cheapest and the fourth most expensive first-year room! But there is no league table of rent cost available to help students – they have to go website-by-website to find rent costs. So, to avoid overpaying, students have to be savvy and do their own research.

Michelle Highman, Chief Executive of The Money Charity said:

“For all that we would like it to be purely about the academics and character development, university is a massive financial commitment. Aside from tuition fees, rent is the single largest cost students and families face. And our research shows that choosing a university wisely can mean the difference between £60 and £120 a week to spend – so do your research and choose carefully.”

“In doing research for our report on the cost of university accommodation, we were surprised to find how difficult it is to find prices and compare different universities costs. If it’s hard for us, it will be hard for students too.

“Our research also tells us that rents are rising faster than loans and grants, making today’s students poorer than last years. Ultimately, whether it is by controlled costs or increasing support, students and families must have enough financial support and guidance to make the financial challenge of university a game that can be won” 

*Some small, specialist universities such as Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance and the Royal College of Music charge more, but we have only included larger, non-specialist institutions in this list.

Correction: An earlier version of this release/story initially stated that halls at the University of Roehampton were the fifth most expensive in the country, which was a mistake on The Money Charity’s part. As our full data shows, Roehampton should not have been included in the top five list.