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When you sign up to become a uni student, you sign up to watching the pennies for three years.

It comes with the territory. The idea of going to uni and feasting daily on lobster and champagne has a certain debauched charm but, hey, your loan’s only going to go so far.

But when it comes to stretching those finances further, where you live makes a big difference. Some cities are more affordable than others; rent costs are lower and it’s easier to find a part-time job. Study in one of these budget-friendly hotspots and you’ll be laughing all the way to the bank.

Here are the five most affordable places to go to uni, according to a survey of current students by NatWest.

Portsmouth skyline

1. Portsmouth

This south coast city is famously known as home to the Royal Navy. But, when you’re a cash-conscious student trying not to sink into an ocean of debt, you’re probably going to be more interested in its title as the UK’s most affordable student city.

Portsmouth is well-stocked with cheap accommodation and students there enjoy rental costs closer in price to Liverpool than London.

So it’s cheap to live there, but there’s still plenty on offer. The uni boasts a number of top-20 rated courses, covering subjects from chemical engineering to economics to social work. It’s located slap-bang in the middle of the city and has a highly rated social scene for students.

Portsmouth is an awesome city! You have Gunwharf Quays for restaurants, cinema and shopping, the city centre for big shops like Primark and Southsea for independent shops, bars and cafes. There is the beach and coastal path, Southsea Castle and loads of museums and parks.

Tourists make a beeline for the horizon-dominating Spinnaker Tower, which sits down at the south of Portsea Island alongside the bars and designer outlet shops of Gunwharf Quays. On one side is the Historic Dockyard, on the other a quiet beach and promenade across Southsea Common. Across the sea is the Isle of Wight, while Southsea is packed with indie shops, seaside cafes and music venues.

With all these attractions, it's a good job there are plenty of options for part-time work. Students in Portsmouth draw in more than £1,500 in extra term-time income.

The university itself boasts an excellent careers and employability service, which advertises thousands of part-time and seasonal jobs. There are also more than 1,000 students working in a variety of on-campus roles.

Despite having all that to keep them busy, students still find time to take in Portsmouth's many sports and entertainment events. There's always plenty going on, including the Great South Run and the Victorious Festival (headlined last year by the likes of the Manics and Mark Ronson).

Albert Dock in Liverpool

2. Liverpool

Home of The Beatles, two top football teams, the Three Graces and four of the country’s most popular universities, this city wasn't named the cultural capital of Europe for no reason. Every street has an array of shops and a host of bars, with a free gallery just around the corner.

Students flock to Seel Street where £1 drinks are even more common than John Lennon wannabes. Living costs are also low – even buying a terraced house can be done for roughly the price of three years of tuition fees.

Tyne bridges

3. Newcastle

Another northern city where culture vultures will feel at home, Newcastle has been a firm favourite with students for years. A host of bars and shops on either side of the Tyne offer plenty of places for students to pick up part-time work.

The living costs are low too, with accommodation and food among the cheapest in the country. Be warned though - according to the survey, Newcastle students also spend more money a week on alcohol than anywhere else. At the prices most Tyneside bars set, that's a lot of jelly shots and strawpeedos...

Big Fish monument in Belfast

4. Belfast

The capital of Northern Ireland has plenty to offer the cash-conscious student. Often overlooked, this is a top-notch Russell Group university which accepts those with not just straight As.

Away from the lecture theatre and most bars are student-friendly and within a short stroll of the campus, meaning no travel costs. For those looking to travel back to the UK mainland at the end of term, low-cost airline flights start from as little as £15. Bargain!


5. Exeter

A surprise addition to the list perhaps, but Exeter students work hard to make sure their money goes far. Many have part-time jobs alongside their studies, with the tourism trade offering plenty of work on a casual basis. But with accommodation costs relatively high, most of this will go to rent rather than nights out.