There are 164 universities and higher education institutions across the UK. The majority of students studying at these locations move away from home and require a second residence whilst at university.

But which student city is the best for landlords and where can they make the most money?

CIA Landlords has conducted research looking at metrics such as student population vs. general population numbers, number of households per city and average rent in student areas to find this out.

London named the UK city with the most potential profit for student landlords

When looking at the estimated number of student households in a city as well as the average yearly rent from student area properties, our team has found the cities with the most potential profit for student landlords.

London comes out on top for the highest estimated yearly rental market for student landlords with approximately £2,661,110,735 revenue each year, we must take into consideration that London can also be an extremely costly place to invest in multiple properties. There is also much larger competition in London for student lets, as students who come to the UK’s capital don’t necessarily live in specific ‘student’ style areas like they do around other student cities in the UK.

Those wondering if they should get into the student landlord business who want to avoid the capital city should opt for Durham and Belfast in order to have a good chance of finding many students looking for properties, as well as making a good return. Our study found that Belfast’s population is 22.1% students and student landlords in the city can set to make approximately £266,572,173 per year. Durham’s large student population (33.6%) means that their student landlord yearly market stands at around £771,746,489.

Both Durham and Belfast do not have the most expensive average student area rent costs, but the percentage of their city’s residents that are university students gives landlords here an abundance of opportunity with a much higher demand for student-friendly properties.

On the other end of the scale, our study found that student landlords in cities such as Reading, Derby and Luton may struggle more than others, with a much smaller student market and therefore less opportunity for student landlords.

Ranked: The UK cities with the most potential profit for student landlords

Rank City Estimated No. student households in city Average rent pcm in student areas (£) Average yearly rent in student areas (£) Estimated yearly rental market for student landlords in each city (£)
1 London 86,449 2,565.19 30,782.32 2,661,110,735
2 Durham 82,225 782.15 9,385.84 771,746,489
3 Belfast 26,687 832.40 9,988.84 266,572,173
4 Edinburgh 36,855 1,285.28 15,423.32 568,428,420
5 Manchester 39276 1,160.76 13,929.16 547,079,641
6 Leeds 49700 900.80 10,809.64 537,239,604
7 Glasgow 42153 1,004.24 12,050.84 507,979,255
8 Birmingham 36575 1,104.71 13,256.52 484,858,627
9 Coventry 24074 1,253.97 15,047.68 362,262,858
10 Oxford 16805 1,788.28 21,459.32 360,615,814
11 Bristol 19005 1,544.93 18,539.16 352,337,855
12 Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 23508 992.89 11,914.64 280,091,658
13 Cardiff 20233 821.67 9,860.00 199,494,462
14 Sheffield 20066 800.08 9,601.00 192,649,368
15 Southampton 12937 1,172.83 14,074.00 182,076,090
16 Cambridge 9786 1,522.85 18,274.16 178,826,113
17 Liverpool 13748 1,072.11 12,865.32 176,866,222
18 York 13994 1,029.50 12,353.96 172,875,950
19 Portsmouth 12404 1,154.95 13,859.36 171,913,723
20 Leicester 14993 911.22 10,934.64 163,940,450
21 Swansea 14049 876.74 10,520.84 147,811,613
22 Nottingham 12518 922.79 11,073.48 138,621,826
23 Luton 6936 978.89 11,746.68 81,470,956
24 Derby 7704 728.22 8,738.68 67,326,540
25 Reading 3638 1,260.76 15,129.16 55,035,463

Oxford and Bristol have the highest average rent in student areas outside of London

To find out which cities had the highest average rent prices for students, our team looked at the average price of rent in three of each city’s most well-known areas for students to live. We then took the average price of a 1-4 bedroom property in the area.

According to our data, student areas in Oxford and Bristol have the highest average rent in the UK. These universities are not only known for their high rankings in the university tables, but their high rent costs too.

Prices of rent average £1,788.28 per month in Oxford in areas such as the city centre and Jericho, and £1,544.93 in Bristol in student areas such as Redland and Gloucester Road.

Derby, Durham and Sheffield have the lowest average rent prices for students in the UK

According to our study, Derby comes out as having the cheapest average rent prices for student properties in the UK, with the average rent found to be around £728.22 per month in its student areas such as Buxton and Allestree.

Perhaps more surprisingly, despite its high rankings similar to that of Oxford and Bristol, Durham comes out as one of the cheapest places to rent as a student in the UK. The north-eastern city has average student rent prices of £782.15 when analysing average rent in student areas such as Gilesgate and Claypath.

Sheffield comes third overall for the cheapest student rent average in the UK (£800.08) with areas such as Crookes and Sharrow popular places for students to search for a property.

Despite being the capitals of Wales and Northern Ireland respectively, Cardiff and Belfast came fourth and fifth in our study for the lowest average rent for student areas. Cardiff’s average rent per month in its student areas was found to be around £821.67 per month, whilst Belfast’s is around £832.40 in areas such as The Holylands and Ormeau Road.

Most to Least Expensive Cities for Student Area Rent Prices:

Ranking City Average rent price (£ pcm)
1 London 2,565.19
2 Oxford 1,788.28
3 Bristol 1,544.93
4 Cambridge 1,522.85
5 Edinburgh 1,285.28
6 Reading 1,260.76
7 Coventry 1,253.97
8 Southampton 1,172.83
9 Manchester 1,160.76
10 Portsmouth 1,154.95
11 Birmingham 1,104.71
12 Liverpool 1,072.11
13 York 1,029.50
14 Glasgow 1,004.24
15 Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 992.89
16 Luton 978.89
17 Nottingham 922.79
18 Leicester 911.22
19 Leeds 900.80
20 Swansea 876.74
21 Belfast 832.40
22 Cardiff 821.67
23 Sheffield 800.08
24 Durham 782.15
25 Derby 728.22

Over a third of Durham’s population is students, the largest percentage in the UK

The UK has a huge student population, however, some cities’ student populations have a much bigger impact on the locations they are in than others.

Some cities, for example, such as Durham see their population grow by over a third (36.3%) in size when including their student residents.

Oxford and Cambridge may be big-name universities but the cities themselves are relatively small, meaning their student populations actually make up a large proportion of their residents. Oxford has the second largest student population compared to its general population at around 29.5%, whilst Cambridge’s students take up just under a quarter of their population at 23.4%.

London, Liverpool and Reading have the smallest student population percentage in the UK

Though London may be home to around 212,155 students, university students in London only take up a small proportion of the capital city’s overall population (2.8%).

Reading in the UK has the second smallest student population compared to their overall population with just 6.3% of their city population being university students. Where sometimes cities in the UK are home to numerous universities which mean higher student numbers, Reading has less than 20,000 students residing in the city who study at their one university.

Despite Liverpool’s five universities, the city’s student residents only take up 7.3% of its overall population making it the third smallest city in the UK for percentage of university student residents. Liverpool is known for its cheaper accommodation – the combination of this and its small percentage of students in the city makes it a potentially less attractive option for student landlords.

Rank City General population of city Total number of students in city Percentage of city that is students compared to general population (%)
1 Durham 56,920 20,645 36.3
2 Oxford 152,450 44,945 29.5
3 Cambridge 129,000 30,200 23.4
4 Belfast 274,770 60,805 22.1
5 Newcastle-Upon-Tyne 282,338 59,635 21.1
6 Manchester 395,515 81,630 20.6
7 Coventry 359,262 67,255 18.7
8 York 210,618 35,275 16.7
9 Leeds 455,123 72,060 15.8
10 Edinburgh 464,990 71,595 15.4
11 Cardiff 447,287 68,095 15.2
12 Portsmouth 190,370 28,280 14.9
13 Swansea 246,217 36,260 14.7
14 Glasgow 591,620 84,320 14.3
15 Southampton 246,201 32,735 13.3
16 Leicester 508,916 61,970 12.2
17 Bristol 617,280 64,195 10.4
18 Nottingham 729,977 74,780 10.2
19 Luton 181,468 17,980 9.9
20 Sheffield 685,368 63,875 9.3
21 Birmingham 984,333 91,655 9.3
22 Derby 270,468 21,285 7.9
23 Liverpool 864,122 63,290 7.3
24 Reading 318,014 19,980 6.3
25 London 7,556,900 212,155 2.8


To find out the percentage of each city’s residents taken up by their student populations, we took the student population of each city and divided this by the overall number of residents in each city.

To find out the number of student properties in each city, we took the percentage of student population and applied this to the overall number of properties in the city.

To find out the average rent costs for students in each city, we looked at three of each city’s most popular student areas, determined using desk research. We then used and took the average price for 1-4 bedroom properties in these areas.

By taking the approximate number of student households in each city and the average yearly rent of properties in student areas, we then ranked the best cities for the student landlord rental market.

Student status – those who are at registered universities in the UK according to HESA

Note: Students at Open University have not been counted within this study due to options for online-only study from many locations.


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