Students spend nearly double on university 'essentials' compared to parents' generation

Lily Canter
24 August 2018
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Students heading to university this year will be packing electronics and gear worth £2,489, almost double the cost of the kit their parents’ generation took.

A new survey by NFU Mutual shows that, after adjusting for inflation, modern day freshers take possessions worth £1,121 more than their mum and dad’s - largely due to the expense of digital technology.

Computer equipment tops the list for the younger generation aged 18 to 24, with 88% of students taking a laptop and 82% taking a smartphone.

This is in stark contrast to their parents' generation - now generally aged 45 to 60 - who owned fewer of the equivalent devices available at the time, with only 10% taking a typewriter to help with their studies.

The Baby Boomer and Generation Xers took analogue devices to university which totalled an average cost of £408 in 1982 the equivalent of £1,368 today after inflation.

And although musical entertainment was the most important category to the older generation, their top item, a cassette player, was owned by just 41% and even fewer – 35% -took a portable TV. Just 22% took a hi-fi system and only 12% a CD player.

Music is also important to the modern-day student, but the number taking an iPod/mp3 player is just 42%, whilst only 19% pack a smart TV, preferring to rely on their mobile phones.

Meanwhile fewer students are taking tablets/iPads (38%), Kindle/e-readers (25%), and gaming devices account for just 35%.

Ian Flower, home and contents insurance specialist at NFU Mutual, says: “There is no doubt that further education can be an expensive outlay for students and their parents.

“Nowadays it’s commonplace for young people to take a huge number of electronic devices with them to uni and the value soon adds up.

“It’s really important that parents and their kids sit down and explore their insurance needs before the students go off to uni to avoid any under or over-protection. Home insurance is an excellent buffer for students who don’t want to shell out on their own cover, or those who forget to cover themselves altogether.”

Like mother, like daughter

Teenager Annie Barden is about to head off to the University of Kent in Canterbury and embark on the same LLB Law Degree that her mother Jo Barden did 36 years ago. Her essential equipment includes an £800 laptop to stream television on and her smartphone with access to four million songs on Spotify.

Annie Barden


By comparison the most prized possession of her mum, Jo Barden, when she enrolled at Leicester Polytechnic in 1982 was a cassette/radio player and bootleg mixtapes recorded from Radio 1 Top 40 Countdown.

“I don’t have time to record music from the radio. That seems like an awful lot of hard work,” says Annie, who has already paid for half of her laptop from her part time job.   


Her mother also remembers being thrilled at having three colour televisions in the communal areas of her accommodation block.

The television was paid for by a Sri Lankan student who had a win on the football pools.

"I don’t remember how much he won but basically it was enough to pay the year's rental for three colour TVs. I remember how excited we all were as Channel 4 was about to launch,” she says.

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