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Living expenses in the UK for international students

Studying abroad in the UK can be expensive. International students need to budget for flights, tuition, textbooks, accommodation, and don’t forget the visa application.  

Of course, living costs in the UK for international students can vary depending on your lifestyle and where you live. So, in this blog, we’ll look at how much students in the UK spend on average each month – and explore how much it cost to live in a large city, compared to a smaller city.  

Average student living expenses in the UK

International student life in the UK comes with a range of unique expenses. According to The National Student Money Survey 2020 conducted by Save the Student, students in the UK spend the majority of their budgets on rent, groceries, and going out. And on average, they spend £795 on living expenses each month. Here’s a breakdown of some of the top spending areas: 

  • Rent – £418/month 

  • Groceries – £100/month 

  • Going out – £46/month 

  • Transportation– £46/month 

  • Household bills (like electricity and water) – £37/month

Living costs in the UK for international students may be different than for domestic students – who may still live at home – but these averages still provide a good estimate and will help to calculate your budget. This Save the Student guide on how to create a budget is also a great resource – and includes a useful student budget spreadsheet to ensure you’re getting the most out of your money at university. 

City examples: London vs. Leicester

UK averages are nice, but it’s important to consider the country and city you’re going to be studying in. For example, the cost of living in England will be slightly different from the cost of living in Scotland. Student life in England typically costs a little more than it does in the other UK nations.  

To help illustrate this, we’ll use Numbeo, a cost of the living database, to compare the average cost of living in London for students with the cost of living in Leicester, a mid-size city about 160 km from the capital. Here’s how prices differ:  

  • A regular cappuccino: £2.94in London vs. £2.54 in Leicester

  • 1L milk: £0.94 in London vs. £0.90 in Leicester

  • A white loaf of bread: £1.01 in London vs. £0.94 in Leicester 

  • A meal at an inexpensive restaurant: £15.00 in London vs. £11.50 in Leicester 

  • A domestic beer: £5.00 in London vs. £3.20 in Leicester

  • A one-way ticket on local transport: £2.80 in London vs. £2.40 in Leicester 

  • A monthly gym membership: £44.58 in London vs. £24.75 in Leicester 

  • Monthly rent for a 1-bedroom apartment outside of the city center: £1,244/month in London vs. £498/month in Leicester 

All in all, having a good idea of costs before moving abroad – and planning your student budget – is an essential part of making sure you’ll be able to live comfortably during your semester(s) in the UK. And of course, enjoy your time as an international student to the fullest.   

Ready to study in the UK?  Our PTE Academic English language exam is accepted by 99% of UK universities and for all UK visa applications. Learn everything you need to know about PTE Academic and book your test now!