It is well known at the university which I went to (Cambridge), that way more money is spent on each student than the home-tier tutition fee (it is partly payed for by the exorbitant cost of international fees, and the student loans of home students are payed by the taxpayer).

UK-wide, how much money is spent on average on university students?

This question was inspired by some of the answers to this question: Why are online lecture notes usually not accessible to non-students?

  • "the student loans of home students are paid by the taxpayer" - this is not universally true at all - people pay off their loans. I paid mine off. Even when they don't fully pay them off, I would bet a reasonable portion pay off the principal. Sure, it depends on a variety of financial factors as to whether it's worth paying off, but the number of students for which it's beneficial to pay the loan off is non-zero. Oct 17, 2021 at 9:27
  • At the time of studying, I think this is true for the overwhelming majority of students. Yes, you might pay it off later, but when you are at uni, you are essentially always paid for by the taxpayer.
    – zabop
    Oct 17, 2021 at 9:30
  • @AdamWilliams I don't think this is true, especially since the rise in tuition fees. The monthly interest on my loan is practically the same as the minimum repayment for my income, so if I remain on roughly the same salary for the next few years I will never pay it off. I believe there is even talk of scrapping the system because it's clear that repayments are only going to continue falling. Oct 17, 2021 at 10:41
  • @AdamWilliams and zabop: the point of disagreement between you is not actually a matter of opinion, it's a technical question which ONS believes it has resolved in its latest accounting standards. Oct 17, 2021 at 13:10
  • I don't think Cambridge is a good comparitor. Its long been the case that educations at Cambridge (and Oxford) is considerably more expensive to provide than that at any other university, due the large amounts of teaching delivered through small group superivisions/tutorials. When I went (20 years ago), this was recognised via the seperate "college-fee" that the college recieves per student (from the student's home local education authority I believe) on top of the standard tuition fee that the university receives, I don't know if this still applies, but it was unique to cambridge/oxford. Oct 18, 2021 at 12:57

1 Answer 1


A partial answer can be found in table 2 of the 2019-2020 TRAC data: cell C64 of the spreadsheet reveals that, across all UK institutions, the average quotient of teaching income by teaching costs for home/EU students on the relevant courses was 0.958. However, that's an incomplete answer for two reasons: firstly, the "teaching income" in the numerator appears to include OfS recurrent funding for high-cost subjects and access, not just students' fees; secondly, it's not clear how data from Scotland (which has a completely different funding model) are being aggregated with data from the rest of the UK.

  • 1
    However one can see the breakdown between fees and grants in the finanical accounts of indevidual universities. Take for example this average Russel group research and teaching univeristy: sheffield.ac.uk/finance/annual-report-financial-statements. There was £354m in income from tuition fees and teaching contracts in 2019/2020, compared with a £24m grant from the Office for Students. There is also a £47m recurrent grant from UKRI, whcih is osensibly for reasearch, and the amount is set based on research output, but which pays salary for some people that spend some time teaching. Oct 18, 2021 at 13:14
  • @IanSudbery One can also find, on the OfS website, the total amount of money OfS spends on the recurrent grants, and work out that the average quotient of recurrent teaching grant income by tuition fee income is 0.077. Oct 18, 2021 at 15:18

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