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Cambridge: A student city with no student prices

A constant battle between students, tourists, and their wallets


When you think of Cambridge, what comes to mind? The almost 1,000 year-old university or the bustling crowds that flood the city on a weekend?

Students, students everywhere

The students in question (Image Credit: Sophie Carlin)

For a city that is so heavily defined by its university and the student population that inhabits it, Cambridge is suffering from a massive lack of student-friendly prices. According to Numbeo, Cambridge is just 13.6 per cent less expensive to live in than London. In fact, after the capital, “Cambridge is the second most expensive place to live in the United Kingdom.”

The university website says that “because maintenance rates are set more than a year in advance based on inflation rates at the time, the cost of living may have risen before [students] arrive in Cambridge.” So it should come as little surprise that many students from other parts of the country are often shocked at how expensive it is in the city upon their arrival.

So why is Cambridge so expensive?

Tourists over students

The high prices in the city are arguably due to the large numbers of tourists that swarm the city every weekend, bank holiday, and most days in between.

King’s college chapel was particularly popular amongst tourists before its recent obstruction by scaffolding (Image Credit: Katie Thacker)

Tempted by the illusion of a relaxing academic life filled with nothing but formals, 8.1 million visitors flock to Cambridge each year. But at what cost?

As shops, bars, and restaurants set their prices with affluent tourists in mind, rather than cash-strapped students, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable prices in an over-saturated market.

College bubbles – suffocating or supportive?

Due to the high prices in the city, many students are reliant on eating and drinking in college when trying to keep their pursestrings tight. With the average cost of a pint in the city recently hitting £5.68 – up from £4.26 in December, it is hardly shocking that many students are choosing instead to go to their college bars.

Whilst the collegiate system can certainly make it cheaper and easier for students to socialise, students are at increasing risk of being isolated in their college bubbles as the city’s prices become increasingly unaffordable.

But, as costs are rapidly rising across the UK, even colleges are not immune to price hikes. For instance, Homerton College has recently raised the price of its signature cider to £2.94 for Homerton students and £4.20 for non-students.

It’s safe to say Homertonians were less than happy with the change in price (Image Credit: Authors own screenshot from @homfess)

Although this is still nowhere near as much as it would cost in the city centre, it sets an alarming precedent for what will occur as costs continue to rise.

Looking towards the future, it will become increasingly important to strike a better balance between Cambridge’s reputation as a tourist hotspot and the needs of the students that live there, who can’t necessarily rely on their own colleges to keep costs down.

Ultimately, students are at the heart of the Cambridge population and the city must remain affordable to them, in the present and future. 

Homerton Press Office was contacted for comment.