Student Accommodation Costs Outstripping Maintenance Loans

University students need help living on just 50p a week after spending their maintenance loans on the soaring accommodation costs.

Maintenance loans for students in England, paid on top of tuition fees, have risen 15 per cent in the past two years but are wiped out by the cost of renting a home.

Research by student accommodation charity Unipol and the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) says the average student rent is £7,566, while the average maintenance loan is £7,590 - leaving a balance of £24 to pay other bills.

Even the poorest students who qualify for the highest maintenance payments spend three-quarters of the money on rent, while the general rule of thumb is rent should take at most 30 per cent of household income.

Students are left to fund the balance from borrowing, family or working.

Students can apply for a maintenance loan to help with living costs. How much individuals get depends on where they live. For example, London students away from home are paid £13,022 a year, while students living outside London receive £9,978.

England’s most expensive unis

The Unipol/Hepi report focussed on student accommodation at 10 UK universities. Liverpool (average rent £6,467), Cardiff (£6,632 and Sheffield (£6,451) ranked as the most affordable universities for private renting.

Bournemouth (£7,396) and Bristol (£9,200) ranked as the most expensive, although Glasgow has seen the most significant rise of 20 per cent in the past two years, followed by Exeter (+16.1 per cent) and Nottingham (+15.5 per cent).

Victoria Tolmie-Loverseed, Assistant Chief Executive at Unipol, said: “Student housing has reached a crisis point in affordability, underpinned by these alarming figures. Rents are rising rapidly just as real-terms government support has stagnated.

“With rents consuming unhealthy levels of an average maintenance loan, students are forced to take desperate measures – illegally doubling up in rooms, taking on increasing amounts of paid work or even avoiding university altogether due to costs.”

The government has raised maintenance loans, and a 2.8 per cent increase is in the pipeline - but accommodation costs have risen by 15 per cent over the past two years.

Spending shortfall

Money website Save the Student reckons the shortfall between the maintenance loan and cost of living is £439 a month - up £99 from 2021 and £216 from 2020.

Meanwhile, research by rental guarantee firm Housing Hand disclosed that privately rented student accommodation is in short supply in most cities due to rising student numbers and fewer landlords.

The study highlighted Manchester, London and Bristol as cities where students may have to live some distance from campus, which costs them more time and money in travel and reduces the student ‘uni experience’.

The firm also warns the Renters (Reform) Bill before Parliament is a challenge for landlords as the legislation needs to differentiate between purpose-built accommodation and shared houses.

COO Graham Hayward said: “The UK is currently regarded as a global higher education leader.

“That position could come under threat if all parties involved in educating and housing students cannot work together to achieve a more balanced solution. To support this, the Renters Reform Bill should initially focus on accommodation for the non-student market.”

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