Posted Thu 3 March 2022 - 11:00

For the third consecutive year, students have increased their spending during their first week at university or college – up to £421 a week in 2021, from £406 in 2020 and £368 in 2019.

Their average weekly spending during term has also increased – hitting £235 in 2021, up from £229 in 2020 and £214 in 2019.

The findings are published in the annual UCAS Freshers Report 2022 (previously called the UCAS Student Lifestyle Report). It includes 32 pages of analysis of more than 7,000 students surveyed about their new lifestyles, spending and choices as they started in UK higher education in autumn 2021.

Rebecca Hopwood, Head of Customer Growth at UCAS, said: ‘Students’ spending has unmistakably endured the pandemic, with some of the biggest brands in the world at the top of their wish lists. However, the UCAS Freshers Report offers every business the opportunity to listen to what matters most to students as they start to navigate their new lives, with new independence.

‘We need to remember that these students started their degrees in the second year of the pandemic, impacting trends with new choices emerging. The overall patterns are clear though, today’s students are resilient, likely to find the positive in change and are ready to spend with the brands they truly value.’

Key trends:

  • Amazon has established itself as the most popular brand for freshers - up from 4th in 2020, 9th in 2019, and 15th in 2018.
  • Netflix is right out in front of other entertainment services, with 83% of freshers saying they use it.
  • Whilst students are spending more it appears they are also choosing to make their money go further. Although Tesco remains their top choice for groceries this has fallen to 58%. ALDI and LIDL are the joint second choice with 37% choosing them as their most frequented supermarkets. Both retailers have re-entered the top overall 20 brands.
  • Instagram is the top choice of social media platform. Only half of freshers now use Facebook, down from 85% (and being the top overall choice) in 2015. Just 1% said they did not use any social media platforms.
  • Spending on smart phones and tablets has increased, making the potential tech bill for students starting in higher education more than £2,000 (on average, smartphone owners are spending £629, tablet owners £645 and laptop owners £799).
  • Spending on kitchenware and homeware has increased by 10% on last year. Dunelm – one of the UK’s largest home furnishings retailers – rose 142 places to break into the top 100 most popular student brands.
  • Chatting with family and friends online has risen by 15% to become the most popular way for freshers to spend their spare time with listening to music a close second.

Read all the findings in detail in the UCAS Freshers Report 2022.

UCAS Press Office

07781 029 025


Notes for editors


UCAS sent three surveys to students beginning their first year of higher education in the UK, collecting responses between 28 October and 11 November 2021. In total, 7,296 first year students completed the surveys, giving us a wealth of rich data from which to draw the

following insights about behaviours and trends amongst current freshers across the UK.

Before we start our calculations, we adjust for imbalances in response rates across applicant groups to ensure that the results are truly representative of the student population.

About UCAS

UCAS, the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service, is an independent charity, and the UK's shared admissions service for higher education.

Our services support young people making post-18 choices, as well as mature learners, by providing information, advice, and guidance to inspire and facilitate educational progression to university, college, or a degree apprenticeship.

We manage almost three million applications, from around 700,000 people each year, for full-time undergraduate courses at over 380 universities and colleges across the UK.

We also provide a wide range of research, consultancy and advisory services to schools, colleges, careers services, professional bodies, and employers, including apprenticeships.

We’re a successful and fast-growing organisation, which helps hundreds of thousands of people every year. We're committed to delivering a first-class service to all our customers — they're at the heart of everything we do.

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