MAP OUT YOUR MONEY; Where You'll Study Makes or Breaks Your Bank Account
Coleman, Alison, The Mail on Sunday (London, England)
Byline: ALISON COLEMAN
PICKING the right course is the first step to a degree, but the choice of university can make or break your finances.
Choose wisely and you can end up with cash to spare. The wrong choice can leave you seriously in debt.
Pharmacy student Christopher Bidad won a place at Bradford University, though he admits it was not his first choice.
But Christopher, from Chelmsford, Essex, found it one of the cheapest places to study with accommodation from as little as [pounds sterling]28 a week.
Christopher, 23, says: 'Like many people from the South-East, I had preconceived ideas about the North - that it was grey, bleak and uninspiring.
'I was considering King's College London, but when I visited Bradford, I was struck by the atmosphere of the place - and the difference in the cost of living.' Rent costs Christopher [pounds sterling]130 a month, less than half what he would pay in London. And students can have a good night out in Bradford for about [pounds sterling]15 compared with [pounds sterling]60 or more in the capital.
Despite being in the final year of a five-year course, Christopher's debts have been kept to a minimum - about [pounds sterling]17,000. He says: 'My parents paid my tuition fees and I work part-time, but I have no overdraft, no borrowing other than my student loans and I have not had to extend my credit card limit.' NOW Christopher is about to graduate, he has been offered a job by the Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital NHS Trust to work in London.
He says: 'Bradford's pharmacy degree is highly regarded, so I've paid a lot less without losing out on the quality of teaching.' Christopher Harris is a director of Higher Education & Research Opportunities - Hero - the official gateway website (www.hero.ac.uk) to universities and colleges. He says students in the North and Wales are more likely to move further from home to study, while many in the South-East choose local universities and live at home to avoid high living costs.
He adds: 'Some southern students are put off by the North because it seems so far away, but there are opportunities to save money.' It is certainly true that choosing a popular course at a university where living costs are high can have serious consequences.
Cheryl Harding from Plymouth enrolled on a degree course in accounting and finance at the University of the West of England in Bristol in September 2000, but found the city expensive and she had difficulty settling there.
Cheryl, 22, says: 'The course didn't really suit me, but I was also worried about money. Everything seemed to cost more than at home.
'The nearest supermarket didn't stock an economy range and nights out were expensive. The campus was out of town and some days I spent [pounds sterling]5 on bus fares alone. …