How much do I need to save before my child goes to university?

How much do I need to save before my child goes to university?

author: Bryony Pearce

By Bryony Pearce

From how much it all costs to how you can foot the bill, read on to clue yourself up on the price of higher education.

The cost of sending a child to university is constantly creeping up. Tuition fees alone can be as high as £9,250 for a single year, and that doesn’t even account for things like study materials, transport and accommodation.

Unfortunately, there’s no clear-cut answer when it comes to how much you need to save to finance higher education, or when you need to start saving, for that matter. That doesn’t mean you can’t start planning and putting some pennies away though, and in this article, we’ll arm you with the information you need to get a rough number in mind.

Working out the costs

Tuition fees

Although the maximum annual tuition fee is currently resting at £9,250, not all universities will charge this much. The amount your child’s degree costs will depend on their chosen course and university, so it’s well worth doing your research and comparing the costs across your son or daughter’s shortlisted institutions.


Accommodation isn’t cheap and can often be one of the biggest costs when it comes to student life. If your child decides to stay at home while studying this’ll instantly save you well into the £1,000s, but if they flock the nest, the average cost of student accommodation is said to be £4,875 a year (based on a 39-week contract).

This cost will inevitably vary depending on where your child decides to study though. For example, while the average monthly accommodation spend is £535 per month UK-wide, people studying and living in London pay an average of £650 a month - which makes all the difference.

Utility bills

The monthly total for things like water, gas and electricity in rented accommodation is estimated to be £50 a month. If we use a 39-week contract as with the accommodation costs, that works out at £487.50 over the course of an academic year.

Study materials

Next up is study materials - like equipment, books and stationery. This should cost approximately £60 each month, coming to £585 for the year. To keep costs down, remember, things like study books don’t necessarily need to be bought brand new, and spending the time to source second-hand materials could save you considerably.


Last but not least is the cost of your child actually commuting to their place of study. Outside of London and other major university cities, a student travel card can be bought for in the region of £45 a month, but again, this price increases for those studying in the capital.

Based on your child being around campus for the duration of the average 39-week contract, that’d be about £438.75 each academic year.

The total cost

So, using a typical three-year course as an example, let’s take a look at the upper end of how much your child’s university degree could cost:

Area of cost Cost per year Cost over three years

Tuition fees






Utility bills



Study materials









 Costs based on UK averages and maximum annual tuition fee cap.

Financing university

If your jaw just dropped at the thought of having to save up almost £50,000 to finance your child’s university course, fear not. Degrees don’t need to be paid for upfront, and there are several options out there to help cover the costs, like:

Bursaries and grants

Most universities offer financial incentives, in the form of a bursary or grant, to students who’re the highest academic achievers. Why? Because it helps them to attract the best of the best, which in turn helps to boost their results and profile.

The types of bursaries and grants available (and their value) will vary from uni-to-uni, but it’s well worth checking each university’s website to see what they’re offering.

Tuition fee loan

You or your child aren’t expected to stump up the cash needed to cover the course’s tuition fees from the get-go. Instead, you apply for what’s called a tuition fee loan to cover the annual costs and then pay the amount borrowed back after they graduate.

With tuition fee loans, the money is paid directly to the university and the money never actually touches your son or daughter’s bank account. When they start to earn over a certain amount - £25,000 currently – the loan starts getting taken out of their wage.

Maintenance loan

As well as tuition fee loans, there is what’s known as maintenance loans available to support your child’s cost of living - like food, accommodation, study materials, travel and utility bills.

When it comes to maintenance loans there isn’t a set number for how much can be borrowed, and the amount varies depending on your household income and where your child will be living while studying.

To give you an idea of how much might be available to your child, here are the maximum amounts on the table for students starting university this year:

Household Income

Living at home

Away from home
(outside London)

Away from home





































So, as you can see, there’s no one size fits all answer to how much you need to save before your child goes to university. And, because the financing options available remove the need for upfront payments, you might even find you can send your child off to study without saving a single penny.

And remember, as well as university-lead financing options, there are also lots of other mainstream credit choices open to you and your child too - like a personal loan or student credit card, for example. 

Disclaimer: All information and links are correct at the time of publishing.

author: Bryony Pearce

By Bryony Pearce

How much do I need to save before my child goes to university? How much do I need to save before my child goes to university?