Most students now work to fund studies

14 August 2015   By Justin Schamotta

RECORD numbers of students are working while studying in order to meet the rising costs of university life, a study has found.

student budgeting
Credit: Motortion Films/

Almost eight out of ten students (77%) are now in paid employment, which is a sharp increase on last year's 59%, according to a survey carried out by insurance firm Endsleigh and the National Union of Students (NUS).

Most students (57%) said the extra cash - term time workers pulled in an average £412 a month - was necessary for accommodation, food and household bills.

Expensive living

Day to day living can be difficult to budget for, particularly for those moving to a new area. More than half of students (56%) said that they had found university more expensive than expected.

It doesn't help that living costs vary drastically around the country. For example, the Natwest 2015 Student Living Index [pdf] suggests that while the average weekly rent in Belfast is £46.22, it shoots up to £112.07 for students in Oxford.

More on student money...

Weekly utility bills range from a modest £6.61 in Bristol to a hefty £19.94 in Manchester, while the weekly food shop costs an average £16.13 in Belfast, but almost doubles to £29.35 in Dundee.

Then there are the relative costs of eating out, travel, entertainment and clothes - all of which aren't possible to accurately calculate beforehand.

Nevertheless, it's possible to cut outgoings, even in the more expensive parts of the country. There are also savings to be made by shopping around for the best current account and overdraft facility.

Making ends meet

Students traditionally fund their time studying through a combination of grants, scholarships, loans, overdrafts, employment and parental contributions.

Going to university, now more than ever, means going into debt.

Projections from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) indicate that students from the poorest backgrounds will graduate with debts of up to £53,000.

This gloomy forecast stems from Chancellor George Osborne's recent announcement that maintenance grants will be scrapped from September 2016.

At the moment, more than half a million students whose family earn less than £25,000 a year get the full annual grant of £3,387, which they don't have to repay.

Even now, the Endsleigh survey of 4,642 students shows that most (74%) rely on their student loan as their main source of income.

Students currently get an average of £363.98 per week from their student loan, up from £273.10 in 2014.

Loans will play an ever more important part for students in the future, according to a recent House of Commons briefing paper [pdf].

At the moment, more than £10 billion is loaned to students each year - but this is expected to increase to more than £100 billion in 2018, and continue to increase to around £330 billion by the middle of this century.

With the end of grants, students will be offered maintenance loans of up to £8,200 a year. The downside is that they'll leave university with a lot more debt.

Jack Britton, research economist at the IFS, said that "the switch from maintenance grants to maintenance loans will result in substantially higher debt for the poorest students".

Killer fees

Most student debt stems from the cost of tuition fees.

Introduced in 1998, tuition fees have been on the rise ever since - reaching their peak in 2012, when universities were able to start charging £9,000 a year.

Those students who began studying in 2012 - and paying £9,000 a year for the pleasure of it - are just graduating now.

More than half of them (55%) think that they'll never be able to fully repay their loans, according to a survey carried out by the NUS.

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