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Which are the top cities in the UK to move to as a graduate?

Written by
Anna McEntee
Insurance comparison expert
4 MAY 2023
6 min read
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Which are the top cities in the UK to move to as a graduate?

Choosing where to live after university is both an exciting and daunting experience. With so many different factors to consider, it can be hard to know where to even start looking.

With this in mind, we’ve created an index to reveal some of the top locations in the UK for graduates to consider moving to. We’ve taken into account factors such as rental prices, job opportunities, living costs, and number of other 21-30 year olds in the community, to help make the decision a little bit easier. We’ve also put together an essential checklist for those looking to relocate, to ensure the relocation goes as smoothly as possible.

Where are the top locations in the UK for graduates?

With average rent prices of £463.12 a month and plenty of graduate jobs to choose from (792), Bradford tops the list of the best cities to live as a graduate in the UK. The northern city also boasts a generally low cost of living, with the price of a meal out at an inexpensive restaurant averaging £10, a pint of beer costing £3, and a cappuccino setting you back just £2.52.

Coming in second is Kingston upon Hull, which boasts the cheapest rent of all cities analysed, with an average of £391.25 a month for a one bed apartment. While it has only 142 graduate jobs on offer, those lucky few who do manage to secure one of these roles will enjoy a low cost of living too, with beers costing just £3 a pint and meals out averaging just £10.25.

In joint third place are Preston and Blackpool, with both Lancashire cities offering cheap rent at £425 and £391.67 respectively, as well as affordable meals out, transport, and gym memberships.

With almost 800 graduate jobs on offer, and a relatively low cost of living (the average meal out costs just £11), Wolverhampton comes in fourth place. Rounding off the top five is Newport, with average rent rates of £475 and almost 700 graduate jobs to choose from.

Rank City Cost of going out[1] Cost of a monthly transport pass Cost of basic utilities Cost of a monthly gym membership Cost of rent for a 1 bed apartment[2] Number of 21-30 year olds living in the city Number of graduate jobs
1 Bradford £15.52 £57.40 £142.88 £26.62 £463.12 68,574 792
2 Kingston upon Hull £15.79 £56.26 £151.33 £25.62 £391.25 39,823 142
3 Preston £16.87 £49.09 £155.40 £21.40 £425.00 23,053 437
3 Blackpool £15.38 £55.00 £235.33 £28.57 £391.67 16,443 192
4 Wolverhampton £16.63 £73.48 £158.75 £25.00 £560.00 33,613 796
5 Newport £15.89 £50.00 £245.00 £35.00 £475.00 20,738 696
6 Sunderland £18.48 £30.00 £198.47 £31.67 £416.67 32,959 532
7 Stoke-on-Trent £17.76 £65.00 £217.50 £26.67 £450.00 34,304 322
8 Coventry £16.21 £50.00 £253.69 £30.00 £604.38 52,778 861
9 Birmingham £18.87 £55.00 £213.31 £26.80 £664.29 171,826 914
10 Derby £21.72 £58.00 £227.88 £26.62 £527.86 36,917 478

[1] Cost of going out combines total prices of a pint, cappuccino, and a meal at an inexpensive restaurant.

[2] For a property outside of the city centre.

Which UK locations aren’t as good for graduates?

Although boasting the most graduate jobs by far of any city analysed, with 4,966 on offer, London actually scores lowest on the list of best places to live as a graduate. Those looking to move to London will face average rent prices of £1,442.38 a month, plus expensive transport passes (£160 a month), restaurants (£17 per meal), and drinks (£6 per pint of beer). Those looking to make new friends should have no problems though, as nearly 1.5million (1,436,999) 21-30 year-olds are currently living in the city.

Bristol is also low down the list, coming in second from the bottom, thanks to its high living costs. The average rent of a one bed apartment in Bristol is around £888 a month, while the average pint of beer costs £4.50 and a meal out is around £15.

Rounding off the bottom five are Reading, Edinburgh, and Southend-on-Sea. Rent in each of these cities will cost graduates over £750 per month on average, and the cost of luxuries such as coffee, meals out, and gym memberships in each city is relatively high.

Index City Cost of going out[1] Cost of a monthly transport pass Cost of basic utilities Cost of a monthly gym membership Cost of rent for a 1 bed apartment[2] Number of 21-30 year olds living in the city Number of graduate jobs
1 London £26.43 £160.00 £307.40 £45.48 £1,442.38 1,436,899 4,966
2 Bristol £22.80 £83.80 £228.80 £29.22 £888.00 90,555 617
3 Reading £29.04 £65.00 £183.98 £32.18 £864.64 28,470 882
4 Edinburgh £23.14 £60.00 £193.07 £33.53 £755.23 97,676 211
5 Southend-on-Sea £21.50 £45.00 £274.97 £35.20 £825.00 21,230 393
6 Manchester £23.04 £76.09 £213.11 £29.92 £691.35 110,843 1,345
7 Milton Keynes £22.36 £60.00 £235.33 £28.57 £875.56 35,745 428
8 Leeds £22.45 £75.00 £237.01 £27.20 £596.43 127,210 798
9 Glasgow £21.95 £73.04 £224.73 £28.67 £636.25 12,377 266
10 Sheffield £18.08 £69.46 £270.61 £31.92 £591.11 87,573 482

Cost of going out includes combined price of a pint, cappuccino and a meal at an inexpensive restaurant.

For a property outside of the city centre.

Re-location checklist

You might have landed the perfect job, or figured out exactly which city you want to live in, but what else do you need to think about before you make the big move?

1. Do your research

Even once you’ve narrowed your decision down to which city you want to live in, choosing where exactly in the city you want to live can be just as tricky. Make sure you do some research before you decide on a property you want to call home. You’ll want to look into which are the safest neighbourhoods, which areas are rated most highly for things like amenities and local activities, and where might be best to live in relation to your commute.

2. Get organised

A big move can be very overwhelming but planning ahead can really ease your moving day. Start planning your packing early with to-do lists and timelines and do little bits of packing in the weeks prior to your move so it’s not all left to the last minute. Make sure you factor in any van bookings, key pickups, and deliveries ahead of time too. 

You might even be able to use the move as a chance to declutter. Take only the essentials with you to your new home, and either sell or pass on items you don’t want anymore.

3. Sort out admin tasks such as getting insurance

Whether you’re looking to rent or buy a home, its important to ensure you have the right level of insurance to suit your needs. Tenants insurance, sometimes known as renters contents insurance, offers cover for your contents and personal belongings if you rent a property. Although its not a legal requirement, while your landlord will take care of buildings insurance – and any contents they provide if the property is furnished – it’s up to you to insure your own belongings against theft and damage.

Those opting to buy a house will need to think about both buildings insurance and contents insurance policies. You can buy buildings and contents insurance as two separate policies, or you can combine them into a single policy. If you’re looking to save money on your home insurance, a combined policy from one insurance provider could work out cheaper

It might not be the most exciting part of relocating, but getting any admin tasks done before you move will make your life much easier in the long run. Other things to consider are registering with your local doctor and dentist, and informing your bank and other providers of your change of address. 

4. Explore your new home

Whether you’re moving on your own or with friends, once you’re in your new home, make sure you get out and explore your local area. Go out and find your new favourite bar or coffee shop, and see if you can find local sports teams or classes you can get involved with to give you a chance to meet some new people near you.

5. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself

Don’t worry if you feel nervous about the move, it’s very normal to be a little apprehensive before a big change. Try to plan as much as possible prior to the move to make it go as smoothly as possible, and once you’re safely in your new home, do a bit of exploring and networking. Remember, it can take a while to feel at home in a new place and graduate life will look different for everyone, so don’t compare yourself to what others are doing around you. The most important thing is to make sure you’re doing what is best for you and your future.

Sources and methodology

Comparethemarket carried out research to decipher which of the UK’s 30 most populated cities would be good or bad for graduates to move to. This is based on a number of metrics including:

  • Cost of a pint of domestic beer
  • Price of a cappuccino
  • Price of a meal in an inexpensive restaurant
  • Price of a monthly transport pass
  • Price of basic utilities
  • Price of a monthly gym membership
  • Price of rent for a one bed apartment outside of the city centre
  • Number of 21-30 year olds living in the city
  • Number of graduate jobs

These indexes were given individual rankings which were added together to determine the overall score for each city.

Anna McEntee - Insurance expert

Anna’s all about delivering fantastic insurance products at a great price. Value is the most important thing for Anna, as she cuts through the jargon and finds what’s most important and worth your hard-earned money.

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