The cost of being a student in London

It's no secret that London is one of the priciest cities in the UK to live, and with house prices increasing year upon year, living in London is becoming unaffordable for many. Whilst the government does have various schemes to assist those on low incomes to purchase a new home, being able to save up a deposit whilst renting makes owning a home a distant dream for many Londoners. I caught up with four students in their third year at UEL to explore their experiences of renting in London whilst they’ve been studying.

Pamela has lived on campus at UEL for the past 3 years:

“I’ve been living on campus since 1st year, each year I had to move out for the summer and in September move in to different building. The rent is around £5,000 for the academic year, and each time you need to pay £500 rent and £250 deposit to secure the accommodation. Everything is included such as water, electricity and the internet.

I think living on campus is cheaper especially as I don’t have to worry about extra payments, and also makes it easy to get to lectures by foot or bike as I don’t have to pay for an Oyster card. The downside of living on campus is having a shared kitchen with flatmates that I only met when I moved in, so you don’t know if they are going to be tidy or messy. Also Asda, Tesco, DLR and buses are very close to campus.”

Maria rents an en suite room in Stratford through Unite student housing:

“I pay £700 a month which is the cheapest price for an en suite room and shared kitchen with another 9 people. At this point I would like to point out that I do not have an income and my parents support me financially. If it wasn't for them I might be staying in a garage or even not be in London. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world but when it comes to students I believe that the government or perhaps other societies and organisations should help, and have better prices, especially for those who come from other countries to pursue their studies and career. Each year the rent goes up and I don't believe that the number of students will stay stable without it being reduced.

Benefits are free museum entries (we barely have museums that worth a visit back in my home country), inspiration everywhere, diversity and culture, a very good educational system, the opportunity to widen personal horizons, collaborate with people and get a job. I know the last one is quite difficult but in the end it happens and that's what matters. The high rentals is sometimes worth it, but I am aware that it is cheaper to stay 20 minutes outside London without having to spend a fortune on train tickets and in that way one can save bit of money.”

Cynthia lived on campus at UEL for the first 2 years and then moved into private accommodation for her final year:

“I think the rental prices in London are actually really high, depending on where exactly in London you want to live. Although when I was living on campus it was still quite expensive, but I didn't have to spend money on travel. I could just get out of bed and walk to class, which was convenient. When it comes to comparing the prices to both private renting and halls, they are quite similar but if you choose to pay in full you do get a discount.

I think one of the biggest perks is the fact you don't have to spend so much money on traveling to Uni. People spend over £100 a week on travel cards to get to and back from uni, while people living on campus don't have to worry so much. Also, for going into stratford campus, they have free buses that go about every hour to and back, so that's also saving them money. I believe the benefits of doing Photography or any creative course in London is that this city is known for having a lot of creative jobs and resources. You can go on like TimeOut and read about a new exhibition or a workshop opening up every week. It's so convenient and helpful for a lot of the research that one has to do when it comes to research journals.”

Nilay lived on campus at UEL for the first and third years of his course:

“For most student accommodations rents are all inclusive (apart from launderette and leisure activities of course) Inclusive rents are definitely a perk, as I don’t have to worry about using heaters or hot water like some of my friends who lives in a shared house. For students maybe the rent could be lower, at the moment I'm paying around £114 p/w which adds up to £456 a month. For that kind of money you could have a semi detached house with another person in Sheffield. So when it comes to London, I guess that's the cheapest option we get. Positives include weekly cleaners in the flat to clean up the kitchen, constant security, a great view, classes are five minutes away, and it’s near to lots of big shops.

For photography, London is the best place to be. I have met and made so many more connections than I ever dreamed of. London is always alive and there's so much to explore. As a student I don't think high rental prices are worth it at the moment though. We are each paying £9000 every year in tuition fees, and nearly £10,000 if you are international student, yet we still have to paying for lots of things ourselves such as our library prints, coffee or tea, and simple pens and paper.”

Whilst London does offer students a wealth of opportunities, it seems as though it may not remain a viable option for students on a low income for long, even with the maximum maintenance grant. As students we would like to see more incentives to live and study within the city. Living on campus seems to be the most affordable option, but for those that want to house share, perhaps there should be cheaper options for students. But it's not all doom and gloom. Where else in the country do you have access to so many resources, many of them free; from museums and libraries to galleries and famous historical landmarks?

If you want to discuss your housing or finance options, please contact the SMART team who can give you support and guidance. You can contact them at the Student Support hubs on +44 (0)20 8223 4444 or

Shelter also offer advice for students who are struggling with their finances.

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