Reduce your rent by heading northwards

If accommodation costs are putting you off a course, look at a different region

Students going through Clearing and looking for accommodation at the last minute will have to hold on to their wallets as they are facing a sharp rise in accommodation costs compared to recent years. The good news is rent still varies a lot around the country, with London and the South-east being the most expensive and the North the cheapest.

If you want low rents and an inexpensive pint of beer, head to Teesside University in Middlesbrough where students pay the lowest rents in Britain at an average £41.47 a week, according to an accommodationforstudents.com survey. The next cheapest are Stoke-on-Trent, housing Staffordshire University, and the Stockton campus of Durham University, where rents are £42.65 and £44.71 respectively.

While the National Union for Students and Unipol put the figure much higher at around £99, the survey by accommodationforstudents.com says the average weekly rent for students across Britain is £65.30, compared with £62.61 last year. Based on almost 59,000 properties in 84 cities around the UK, it also shows that eight of the 10 most expensive student towns and cities are in the South-east. London leads the way with student rents at £102.80 a week, closely followed by Kingston (£101.68) and then Guildford (£89.54).

Carmel Rawlins, 19, who is studying fashion journalism at the University for the Creative Arts in Epsom, Surrey, is not deterred by high rents. Last year, she was living in Epsom. Next year, she plans to move into the capital. "I would like to find somewhere in south London to live, either Vauxhall, Clapham Junction or Brixton. You do get into a lot of debt, but you pay it off [later] when you are earning money," she says.

A spokesman for the University of Brighton, which comes in as 10th most expensive, explains the high cost by the fact rents have historically been higher in the South-east than the rest of the UK. The university offers students a range of self-catered and catered accommodation at more moderate prices. Those who apply to the university at the conventional application time, and not at Clearing, can get rooms from £72 a week. The university also offers guidance to students who want to live in private rented accommodation. It rents properties in the private sector and sub-lets them to students. It has also established a joint website with the University of Sussex whereby landlords meeting a set of standards can advertise their accommodation free of charge.

Kingston University is also in an expensive part of the world and lays on similar help for students. Students can get call its accommodation services team for help, and there is a noticeboard with a linked Facebook site for students looking to contact others also trying to find a property to rent.

The university disputes the figures in the survey, saying the average weekly rent for private rental accommodation on Kingston's own private lettings vacancy list is £86.33 a week, rather than £101.68, but this could rise to £92-93 a week, come the beginning of term, according to a spokesman. The university believes the survey's figures are high because they include expensive properties marketed at students by private companies. But unlike the University of Brighton, Kingston's halls of residence tend to be more expensive than private rented accommodation. Self-catered places in halls cost £92.75 to £167.50 a week.

All of which suggests students who are particularly strapped for cash should look further north for a university. A spokesman for Teesside University says the real benefit to being a student in Middlesbrough is you don't need to pay expensive travel costs to live and study there. "Everything is in easy walking distance. You can even walk to the Riverside Stadium to watch Middlesbrough FC if you wish."

Katie Greenaway, 23, who is studying nursing at Teesside, believes accommodation costs are a real factor in persuading people to go to university in Middlesbrough. Next year, she plans to rent in the private sector and will pay a less than she has this past year in a student house. "It's really cheap here, compared to the big cities," she says.

At Keele University, close to Stoke-on-Trent where rents average £42.65 a week, accommodation prices reflect the low cost of living in the region, according to Sue Underwood, Keele's head of accommodation services. "The student population is relatively small for the size of the combined towns, and many landlords look to local residents to fill their properties," she says. Many of Keele's students, however, live on campus where rents start at £64 a week and where students are offered a variety of letting periods which many landlords don't offer. That means they pay more than for private accommodation, but the costs effectively work out not much more, because students get utility costs thrown in as well as internet access and insurance cover.

The lowest rental prices are largely for rooms in terraced houses near Staffordshire University's Stoke campus, which are close to the railway station. It may not sound attractive, but the area is being spruced up to make it safer and trendie, and is becoming known as the University Quarter.

Like the University of Brighton, Staffordshire University says private rents in Stoke are even lower than the average figure given in the survey. "We acknowledge that good-value accommodation and low cost of living are factors in choosing the right university," says a spokesman.

Co-founder and director of the accommodationforstudents.com website Simon Thompson says the reason rents have gone up is landlords are having to make minimum down payments for buy-to-let mortgages nowadays of 20 to 25 per cent. "With more equity now tied up in their properties, many landlords have been forced to increase the rent in order to make a return on investment," he says.

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