Earlier this year, our research revealed the extent to which students across the country were struggling to manage financially during the cost of living crisis, following a period of record high levels of inflation.

Building on these previous findings, this new analysis takes a closer look at the financial support students receive through student finance.

It finds a wide gap between the amount of maintenance support students receive and the amount they need to spend on essentials.


The median amount spent on essentials by students outside of London.


The median maintenance loan taken out by students outside of London.


The total value of support that students in Wales can access via loans and grants.

Key findings
  • Nearly two-thirds (62%) of students spend less than the minimum £37 a week on food needed for essential food items.
  • Median loans both in London (£8,500) and the rest of England (£7,000) come nowhere near to covering median costs on essential spending (£17,287 and £11,400 respectively).
  • Median spending on essentials by students from working-class backgrounds (C2DE) is approximately 21% less than those from middle-class families (ABC1).
  • 66% of working-class students’ essential spending goes on rent and bills, compared to just 54% for their more affluent peers, meaning they spend less on groceries as a result (£120 vs £140 a month).
  • The government should urgently review the maintenance levels available to students for day to day living costs, to better match the financial challenges students are facing.
  • In the medium term, the government should bring back maintenance grants, at a level reflecting increased costs of living since they were abolished in 2015. This would mean that students from lower-income households are better able to meet their basic needs without being left with the highest levels of debt when they leave university.