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Financial Politics at University

I’m broke“. A phrase that is thrown around our university campus, often accompanied with a smile, a laugh, or grimace… But does ‘broke’ really mean the same to everyone? For those balancing part-time jobs and sky-high student debt, being ‘broke’ can mean that they are physically unable to pay their bills. For others, it seems to be just a turn of phrase, an easy answer when they don’t fancy heading out for a pint. These attitudes demonstrate that there is a clear divide within the student population when it comes to money issues – just how complex are these ‘financial politics’ and what are the implications?

Edinburgh is an expensive city – no doubt about it. A recent study by NatWest revealed that our city boasts the highest living costs for a student in the UK – outperforming places like London and Cambridge, with an average of £949/month in outgoings per student. Pair this with steep tuition costs and the result is eye-watering. But is this the same for every student? Being a Scottish university, Edinburgh has a natural financial divide – there is a percentage of Scottish individuals who are essentially obtaining tuition for free at the point of service, whilst the rest of the students from the UK, Europe, or beyond, are having to pay thousands of pounds each year for tuition. This issue is often laughed off, yet it creates a chasm between the ‘lucky’ Scottish scholars and the rest of the student body.

And tuition fees are only the tip of the iceberg. There are a multitude of costs which build up week-to-week; rent, heating (to heat or not to heat?), furniture, food bills, coffee dates, alcohol, society memberships, course books, gym memberships, WiFi…. The list is long, and it just keeps growing. Although most students must pay for these, there may be a difference in priorities. For some, almost 100% of their income (whatever that may be) must go on rent, food, and energy bills. For others, family aid and loan help result in a little more disposable income to spend on the odd takeaway or Friday night cocktail. And for the lucky few, it seems that money is still no object, despite spiralling energy prices and rent costs.

Understandably, it can be difficult to navigate these different budgets in friendship groups, and it may go deeper than just financial issues. Seeing a friend with the latest Apple Mac, iPad, and Urban Outfitters clothes, when you yourself are struggling to make ends meet each month can result in feelings of bitterness and animosity. Although everyone understands that money doesn’t equal happiness, it can be tough to remember when you’re the only one unable to buy a round of drinks at the bar.

So, what can be done? If you are in a friendship group with wholly different budgets, be mindful. Remember that there are free activities out there and that no-one is left out because they can’t afford to go. Try and study with friends at the library rather than a cafe, drink at a flat rather than pub-hopping, have a Meadows picnic instead of a restaurant meal….and maybe try to keep the heating off until winter.

Link to NatWest article: https://www.natwestgroup.com/news/2022/08/edinburgh-most-expensive-city-for-students.html

Photo Credit: “Luxury Taxes For The Rich” by kenteegardin is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.