Studying the Expense; Business Editor John Duckers Looks at Student Costs and Challenges as Another Year Begins

Article excerpt

Byline: John Duckers

Around 90 per cent of Britain's students will live in private rented accommodation during their time at university, which places new responsibilities on them

As the university term begins up and down the country, they will be enjoying the freedom of living away from their families.

While many students are given a room in halls of residence for their first and sometimes subsequent years, an estimated 90 per cent of students will live in private rented accommodation for at least part of their time at university. Finding, paying for and looking after a rented home will be vital to a successful university career.

Huge numbers of students swell the populations of some of the UK's university towns -for example, the students of Bangor University in Wales amount to almost 70 per cent of the residents of the town, while the population of St Andrew's University - where Prince William studied -augments its size by 50 per cent during term time.

John Socha, vice chairman of the National Landlords Association, said: "Students all have to live somewhere: most universities try to accommodate freshers in halls of residence, who then need to find themselves a rented home for second and subsequent years."

Students, whether living in halls or in rented accommodation, may also be having their first experiences of living away from home and on a budget.

It comes as no surprise that there is a significant variation in rent levels among different university towns, with "traditional" universities such as Bristol, Manchester, Exeter, London, St Andrews, and of course Oxford and Cambridge tending to be much more expensive. Rents in Oxford and Cambridge average almost pounds 80 per week, while those in St Andrews exceed pounds 75. This compares with around pounds 44 in the cheaper university towns.

Mr Socha continued: "Students pay significantly more for rented accommodation in the long established universities, where there is no shortage of students but a relative scarcity of property available.

"Other towns where the university is less well known or may not have its full complement of students generally have cheaper average rents. For example, bargains are to be had for students in Belfast, Bradford and Sunderland, where students pay only around pounds 44 on average.

"It's not just the 'prestige factor' - it's the laws of supply and demand and the fact that premier league universities attract premier league rents. While students can save money on accommodation at certain universities, that should not colour their choice of uni."

Spending money can be as little as a fiver a week

With the student loan for English students set at pounds 4,405 per annum (pounds 6,170 in London), a student with no other financial support or income for the year will be living on less than pounds 85 per week.

Rent takes a big chunk of students' cash, on top of which they need to budget for utility bills, plus the customary one month's deposit paid upfront.

Mr Socha said: "In Belfast, Bradford and Sunderland, what's left over after paying rent is more than pounds 40, but it dwindles to scarcely more than a fiver in Oxford and Cambridge. While London is, not surprisingly, the most expensive place to rent, the higher student loans available mean that the capital is not the place where students are most financially squeezed.

"Many students earn money from part-time or vacation jobs to supplement their student loans or have recourse to the 'Bank of Mum and Dad' to keep them afloat, and those at the top universities need the most financial help from their parents."

The most frequent bone of contention between landlords and tenants is over the return of deposits. Under the tenancy agreement landlords are entitled to withhold part of the deposit if there are breakages or damage to the property - beyond fair wear and tear - or if house and garden are not returned in a clean and tidy condition. …