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Edinburgh found to be the most expensive city in Scotland for students to live

ByCraig Liddell

Sep 13, 2016

A recent study has found that Edinburgh is the most expensive city in the UK for students to live and work. The research was conducted by Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and NatWest, and was published in their report, The 2016 Student Living Index (SLI).

2,514 students from universities in 25 UK cities responded to the unbranded online survey in June, allowing RBS to estimate term-time and holiday incomes. The goal was to better understand differences in student living costs within different university environments, and the dichotomy between students’ motivations and expectations. One hundred of the respondents were students living in Edinburgh.

By dividing the average local weekly expenditure on living and accommodation costs by the average local weekly income (from loans, parents, work etc.), the cost effectiveness of each university city was calculated. The average across the 25 cities was 0.67 and whilst Portsmouth was the most cost effective with an SLI score of 0.53, Edinburgh was the least cost effective, with a score of 0.84, with Southampton close behind at 0.82.

Meanwhile, Dundee and Glasgow, the only other Scottish cities to feature, were the tenth and sixteenth most cost effective cities respectively. Glasgow came in with an SRI ranking of 0.69, only slightly above the average 0.67 score. Dundee was deemed even more cost effective, with a score of 0.59, making it one of the top ten most affordable cities for students in the UK, according to this report.

A questionnaire carried out around The University of Edinburgh’s central campus found that 90 per cent of students responded ‘yes’ when asked if they find living in Edinburgh expensive and contributory to their term-time stress levels.

However, when asked if this was enough to make them consider or wish they studied elsewhere, only five of the 80 students surveyed said ‘yes.’ Eight students responded ‘perhaps’ and the other 67 responded ‘no.’

The Student spoke with members of the University community about their opinions on the SRI findings. Lee Mitchell, a postgraduate medical student at The University of Edinburgh, says: “Edinburgh is a fairly expensive city to live in, I don’t feel the report is truly representative as many non-city universities are possibly more expensive. For example, St Andrews, where I studied for my first degree, had far higher rent costs than Edinburgh.”

Another student interviewed, Shannon Russell, a fourth year undergraduate, stayed in student accommodation in her first year and is now a Resident’s Assistant (RA). Russell told The Student: “In first year I was staying in one of the cheapest, self-catered halls and still paying over £500 a month.

“Now as an RA, with 75 per-cent discounted rent, I find city living much more affordable, and as a result more enjoyable, with more time to spend focusing on my studies.”

Along with overall rankings, the SRI report also measured other student finance variables, such as average rent paid by students within each city.

The average city rent price for the 25 cities surveyed was £109.00 per week, however Edinburgh has the ninth highest average rent with £112.05 per week. Edinburgh ranked above London with £105.08, but below Oxford and Cambridge with £135.38 and £131.48 respectively.

Students’ term-time income was also measured in the SRI report. Edinburgh came in with a below average score as well. The average being £1193.15 per year, Edinburgh had the third lowest of the 25 cities with an average income of only £995.19, according to the report.

However, this statistic is refuted later in the report with the finding that Edinburgh student respondents worked an average of 6.68 hours a week, more than the average of 5.73 and the eighth highest of the 25 cities. They also earn an average of £139.00 per week from term-time work, more than the average of £76.67 and the third highest of the 25 cities.

Measures such as the amount of money students spend on alcohol and nights out were also looked at in the SRI report. It was found that Edinburgh students spend more than the average amount of money on alcohol, at £7.21, and the most of all 25 cities on going out per week at £8.19, with the average response being £6.65.

Household bills in Edinburgh were also well above the national weekly average of £9.65 at £11.48, the fourth highest average cost.

However, the report’s analysis revealed a positive correlation between a student’s average time spent socialising and the enjoyment of their course. On average, those socialising more than 9 hours a week scored their enjoyment of the course at 7.2 out of 10 compared to those who did not socialise at all scoring their enjoyment of the course only 6.1 out of 10. It was found that Edinburgh students spend on average 9.08 hours a week socialising, which is higher than the overall average of 8.89 hours. The average score for course enjoyment among Edinburgh students was 7.1.


Image: Howard Lake

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