Parents of students sacrificing holidays and taking on second jobs to cover the cost of university

Parents are sacrificing cars and holidays – and even taking on second jobs – to fund hundreds of pounds in contributions to their children’s university living costs, new research from Which? suggests.

In a survey of parents of current and prospective students, a quarter (26%) of parents told Which? they have had to or intend to cut back on luxury spending – such as holidays, new cars or home improvements – to financially support their child at university.

Six per cent of parents also said they have or will have to take on a second job to help cover the cost.

Which? heard from 846 parents of current and prospective undergraduate students about how their child’s university education is being funded, with just over eight in 10 (84%) parents of current students saying they are financially supporting their child at university.

Half (49%) of those said the overall cost of supporting a child at university was more than they expected, with contributions made by parents averaging £360 a month.

Two thirds of parents (66%) surveyed told Which? they use or will use their monthly income to cover the cost, while a quarter (27%) said the funds come or will come from their savings.

A third (34%) said they had or will cut down on day-to-day spending, with another one in three (32%) telling Which? they will encourage their child to get a job or save in other ways.

Expenses that parents of current students were contributing towards included living costs, including accommodation, bills and food (56%), study materials (37%), outings and hobbies (28%) and tuition fees (10%). 

However, one in five parents of current undergraduates say that they are supporting their child financially, but did not know specifically how the money was being spent. 

One parent with three children at university told Which?: “All my earnings go into supporting my children, and we have gone without many things to support them.”

In a separate survey of students, Which? found that half received additional money from their parents, with around four in 10 (44%) saying they have spent more money on accommodation than they expected to, and the same proportion (43%) saying course expenses cost them more than they had anticipated.

With the start of the new academic year approaching and many students beginning to make university plans for next year, Which?’s student budget calculator can be used to help parents estimate the cost of living at different UK universities to help them plan ahead and budget effectively.

The tool lets parents calculate the average monthly expenditure for a student at their child’s university, including a breakdown of rent, transport costs and utility bills, plus tips on how to save on the costs. The calculator also factors in regional variables, providing accurate estimates of costs for UK universities.

Which? also has a host of information for parents looking to budget for university costs, with tips on how to cut costs, make their money go further, and uncover additional funding.


Gareth Shaw, Head of Money at Which?, said:

“Sending a child to university is an exciting milestone, but it is also a major financial commitment – so parents should be aware that they’re likely to have to find considerable sums to support their offspring beyond the headline costs for fees and accommodation.

“There are a number of steps that parents and students can take to ease the financial burden of going to university, and taking some time to think about these options ahead of time can potentially help save a lot of money in the long run.”


Notes to editors:

  1. YouGov on behalf of Which? surveyed 846 parents of current undergraduate students (409) and of students who are considering applying in the next 12 months/have applied to university in the past 12 months (437) between 28 February and 7 March 2019.
  2. Youthsite on behalf of Which? surveyed 3,874 undergraduate students currently studying towards their first degree at a UK university between 20 March and 12 April 2019.
  3. For more information on how parents can budget for university, visit:
  4. For more information about student finance, visit:
  5. For Which?’s student budget calculator, visit:

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