CENTRAL TO the selection of any place to study are financial considerations. Northern Ireland is widely regarded as among the cheapest places to live and study. Rents for student flats are very cheap, with about pounds 30 a week being typical. And the general cost of living is less with a good, reasonably- priced system of public transport. The sprawling nature of the major cities, though, can mean challenging socialising logistics, and taxis should, of course, be considered in some areas late at night.

There's keen competition to attract custom in the host of traditional pubs that characterise Northern Ireland's drinking culture, with the newer- style bars needing to keep prices reasonable to hold their custom.

The costs of living in Scotland fall into three broad categories: the central belt, Aberdeen and everywhere else. Glasgow and Edinburgh both have a wide range of housing, based mostly on the traditional tenement- style flats, varying in price by area. The trendy West End of both cities will cost at least pounds 45-pounds 50 a week per person in a shared flat, whereas other, less desirable, areas come in a little cheaper.

Both Glasgow and the capital have excellent public transport: Glasgow's Underground is particularly good value and the quickest way across the city.

The costs of eating, drinking and going out are expensive, but not nearly as much as you'd expect to pay in, say, London or Manchester. Few clubs charge more than pounds 5 for entry and most drinks out are about pounds 2. Most other parts of Scotland are fairly cheap to live in, St Andrews and Dundee being well priced for lodging and boasting a great deal of dedicated student accommodation. They may be some distance from the beaten track, but they are far from cut off from the outside world, - both having affordable transport links with other parts of the country.

Stirling University is something of an anomaly as it has a completely self-contained campus just outside town. This leads to a cosy environment with regulated prices and outside influences controlled. Links to the outside world are, however, frequent and relatively inexpensive. In contrast, Aberdeen is a very expensive city to live in. Since the oil boom of the Seventies and Eighties, property prices first rocketed, and then, for the following years, climbed steadily. This means house prices higher than London, and a severe shortage of suitable student properties. Both the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University have worked hard to provide some solutions, with more student accommodation planned, but the costs of living, shopping and socialising are still high for the student pocket. But, as with everywhere, bargains can be found, and campus is the best place to look. Keep an eye on flyers and shop window notices for accommodation, and shop around for keener prices.