The price of success: funding your child’s degree

The cost of university has been a topic of debate for many years. But what’s striking now is the extent to which students and their parents are stretching themselves to foot the bill.

According to a new HSBC study, Value of Education 5: The price of success1, UK students are spending £41,200 on average over the course of a degree: this includes tuition fees, accommodation, living costs – and having some fun.

And even though parents often step in to help – contributing around £8,400 on average – students still need to find some £32,800 to cover their costs, the study found.

This funding gap is leading to both students and parents taking on more paid work, and debt, while parents are also sacrificing their own travel and leisure activities. 

If you’ve got children that are still some years away from university, there’s plenty you can do to prepare. See our useful tips below.

Lazy students?

They may have a reputation for laziness, but it seems students are working harder than ever as they juggle their studies and work commitments.

According to the research, 4 in 5 students in the UK have jobs; they spend over 6 hours a day studying and 4 hours a day in paid employment. While some students take jobs to gain experience and meet people, 59% said they were doing it because they need the extra money.

Separate research on the topic suggests that spending more than 20 hours a week working has a negative impact on grades2. However, students working 10-19 hours per week produce better academic performance than their peers.

Parents tighten belts

Parents are making big sacrifices to contribute to the cost of their children’s university education: 40% say they’ve reduced or stopped leisure activities such as going to restaurants and the cinema; over a third have taken fewer holidays; 29% have worked extra hours or taken a second job.

The vast majority of parents – 84% – are digging into their day-to-day income as they make those sacrifices; only 7% have a specific education savings or investment account to tap into.

Unsurprisingly then, almost a third of parents helping to fund a child at university wish they’d started saving earlier, with 22% regretting not saving money more regularly.

Almost half worry that they don’t have the financial resources to support their children, while 44% of parents that contribute don’t know how much their child’s education is costing.

How to prepare?

1Start early
Early planning and saving for education can help your children fulfil their potential and limit the strain on family finances. Seeking professional advice can help you plan and make better informed choices. View our savings options

2. Be realistic about the costs

The cost of university education can be expensive. Take into account all the costs when planning how to financially support them through higher education. Find out more about the cost of uni

3. Instil good financial habits
Help your children to plan and manage the costs of student life by taking advantage of the budgeting tools and calculators available online.

4. Invest in a range of skills

Help your children choose an educational route that will equip them with the softer skills needed for the workplace of the future like problem solving and social skills as well as the specific skills for their chosen career.


1The Value of Education is an independent consumer research study into global education trends, commissioned by HSBC. It provides authoritative insights into parents’ and students’ attitudes and behaviour towards education around the world.
These findings are from the fifth survey in the series and represent the views of 10,478 parents and 1,507 students in 15 countries and territories: Australia, Canada, Mainland China, France, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, United States. This includes the views of 1,000 parents and 100 students in the UK. The research was conducted online by Ipsos MORI in March and April 2018.
The research was conducted online by Ipsos MORI in March and April 2018.
This includes the views of 1,000 parents and 100 students in the UK.

2 Balancing Work and Academics in College: Why Do Students Working 10 to 19 Hours per Week Excel? By Lauren Dundes and Jeff Marx (2006) Vol8; Issue 1