By Study Inn

Embarking on your university journey soon? Well, it’s an exhilarating adventure, and finding a city that balances affordable living with a vibrant student experience is key. Especially in the face of the student cost of living crisis in the UK, with 72% of students reporting a decline in their physical and mental health due to living costs. A recent report from Havas Education even noted that affordability is now the top priority for all prospective students when choosing where to study.

The same report notes that 94% of students are concerned about the impact of changes to their cost of living, 34% are going out less to pubs, bars and restaurants, 34% aren’t going out as much with friends, and 26% are looking for more cost-effective accommodation.

If you’re amid university applications and seeking a place where your budget goes further, you’ve landed in the right spot! As a premier all-inclusive student accommodation provider, we’re here to guide you through the most affordable student cities in the UK that also promise a wealth of fun and excitement. 

At Study Inn, we’ve got all the insider tips you need with our student accommodation locations in Bristol, Exeter and Leeds to name a few. Here, we look at the cheapest cities for students out of the fun-loving group who made the top 10 in our recent chart of the most fun UK cities to be a student. So, if you’re ready to make the most of your student life without breaking the bank, join us as we dive into the ultimate guide to affordable and exciting student living!

The cheapest fun student cities in the UK

From the most fun student cities we discovered in our recent rankings, a few came on top as being not only the most fun but also among the most affordable student cities in the UK:

  1. Bristol
  2. Edinburgh
  3. Exeter
  4. Aberdeen
  5. Oxford
  6. Cambridge
  7. Southampton
  8. Leeds
  9. Glasgow
  10. London

This was based on average rent, the percentage of nearby eateries rated ‘cheap’ on TripAdvisor, and the number of attractions TripAdvisor lists in each student city which are cheap or free. Coming out on top were Bristol, Edinburgh and Exeter — three great student cities with buckets of entertainment, variety and culture to offer. Let’s take a closer look. 

UniversityOverall PositionLowest Rents*Cheap Eats Score**Free/Cheap Attraction Score***
Bristol1Joint 1st35
Edinburgh2Joint 3rd17
Exeter3Joint 1st73
Aberdeen4Joint 3rd26
Oxford5Joint 7th41
Southampton7Joint 7th58
Glasgow9Joint 3rd99

Sources: * National Student Accommodation Survey, , ** TripAdvisor 5* food venues only, %  of all in the city, ***TripAdvisor 5* attractions only, % of all in the city

Student cost of living: the top 3

Bristol, Edinburgh, and Exeter offer a unique blend of vibrant student life, cultural richness, and budget-friendly living, making them ideal choices for those seeking the full university experience without the hefty price tag.


Bristol is one of the cheapest student cities when it comes to average rent per year (£6,216) sitting in joint first place with Exeter for this category. Rent is a hot topic in the student cost of living crisis at the moment, with 41% of students saying they don’t think their accommodation is good value for money. Bristol also boasts a broad range of cheap eats – 37% of all eateries are noted as cheap on TripAdvisor – and around 27% of the city’s attractions can be enjoyed for little or no cash spend.

Bristol University has a diverse and international community, 28% of its 30,000 students come from over 150 countries, creating a vibrant multicultural atmosphere. The city itself, positioned at the heart of one of Europe’s most creative and exciting cities, offers a wide range of activities, from exploring the lively art scene to enjoying its bustling nightlife — there’s never a dull moment. 

The university is not just about studies; it’s about making a difference, with world-leading research tackling global challenges, and a strong commitment to sustainability. Career guidance is top-notch, with Bristol graduates being highly sought after, and there’s generous funding available to ensure financial concerns don’t hinder your potential. With over 350 student-run clubs and societies, and comprehensive support services, Bristol ensures a well-rounded, supported, and enjoyable student experience.


Welcome to Edinburgh, home of the highest % of affordable local eateries overall (just over 40%!) along with the second cheapest pint in our rankings and a thriving cultural scene (with plenty of live music and the annual Edinburgh Fringe festival). Edinburgh is also the 3rd cheapest student city rent-wise in our rankings, over £200 less than the national average. 

In terms of teaching innovation, Edinburgh excels in developing and implementing student-centric methods, including e-learning and peer-assisted learning, ensuring a top-tier learning experience. It also leads in online education, offering the UK’s largest portfolio of postgraduate online degrees, accommodating over 8,000 online students since 2005.

Edinburgh is one of the world’s top 10 student cities and the university offers an exciting, multicultural environment within a beautiful, compact city, providing an ideal balance of academic and social life. With extensive academic resources, including one of the world’s largest academic libraries and numerous computer labs, students are well-equipped for success.

Beyond academics, Edinburgh encourages student involvement in a range of extracurricular activities, from over 320 societies to numerous sports clubs, enriching the overall student experience. With its impressive global community, leading sustainability efforts, and a wealth of resources and support, Edinburgh University stands out as a top choice for students seeking a comprehensive and fulfilling academic journey.


We’ve already mentioned that Exeter is one of the most affordable cities for young adults in terms of rent, but it’s also low-cost when it comes to days out and entertainment. Just over 27% of Exeter’s quality attractions (those rated 5 stars on Tripadvisor) are considered cheap or are entirely free of charge, which makes Exeter one of the cheapest student cities in the UK as an all-rounder. And, with one of the highest volumes of affordable eateries in the top 20 student cities (25% of overall options), you’re also spoiled for choice thanks to a wide array of restaurants to suit every palate.

Exeter University offers an unforgettable student experience brimming with activities, events, and a strong sense of community. Its large student body contributes to the dynamic social scene, with numerous gatherings and parties to enjoy. The city of Exeter itself is a treasure trove of history and culture, boasting landmarks like the iconic Exeter Cathedral and the medieval Exeter Historic Guildhall, as well as a variety of museums, galleries, and live music venues to enrich your cultural pursuits. But the fun doesn’t stop there. Exeter’s cultural scene is exciting and diverse, with a choice of events, food festivals, and musical gatherings throughout the year to keep you busy.

UniversityAverage Monthly Rent% of dining options that are rated ‘cheap’ *% of attractions that are free/cheap**
Bristol£ 51837%27%
Edinburgh£ 52540%26%
Exeter£ 51825%27%
Aberdeen£ 52537%26%
Oxford£ 53434%28%
Cambridge£ 53216%27%
Southampton£ 53430%26%
Leeds£ 55027%27%
Glasgow£ 52518%24%
London£ 66324%21%

Sources: * National Student Accommodation Survey, , ** TripAdvisor 5* food venues only, %  of all in the city, ***TripAdvisor 5* attractions only, % of all in the city

The all-round student experience

When it comes to combining affordability with the student experience and education, Bristol and Edinburgh remain 2nd and 3rd respectively, using the Guardian University League table to account for the all-round student experience. An adjusted chart that considers league table scoring against overall affordability sits Oxford in the top spot – pushing Exeter into a still-impressive 4th position. 

Selecting all-inclusive accommodation like Study Inn at Walnut Gardens in Exeter, or Marlborough House in Bristol, lets students fully embrace and enjoy their university experience, all while residing in cities known for their affordability. Walnut Gardens redefines student living, offering an array of outstanding amenities designed for relaxation, community building, and personal growth. From our cinema lounge and rejuvenating spa facilities to our high-tech gym and yoga studio, every detail is crafted to enhance your university journey beyond academics. With utility bills and superfast wi-fi included, students don’t ever need to worry about the rising of bills.

Similarly, Marlborough House in Bristol offers beautifully designed, ensuite serviced apartments situated in the heart of the city, providing a perfect blend of comfort and convenience. Our modern social spaces, 24/7 friendly staff, regular housekeeping, and kitchen and bedding essentials are all included in the rent, ensuring a seamless and enjoyable stay. Choosing Study Inn’s accommodations in these student-friendly cities guarantees not just a place to live, but a lifestyle that enriches your university experience.

Matt Shakespeare, MD of Operations at Study Inn says:

“I completely understand the appeal of choosing Bristol and Exeter for university. Bristol, with its vibrant arts scene and rich cultural offerings, provides a dynamic environment for students. On the other hand, Exeter offers a balanced mix of urban living and access to nature. Both cities are incredibly student-friendly and offer diverse opportunities. We are here to enhance the student experience, and proud to have been voted the #1 best student accommodation in Bristol and #2 best in Exeter in this year’s StudentCrowd Student Voice Awards.”

Looking for all-inclusive student accommodation for the upcoming academic year? Enquire now to secure your place >