A fifth of students are shunning the traditional university lifestyle to live with their parents to try to avoid huge debts, a survey suggests.
Fear of debt means more students are living at home
The poll of 2,200 students by catering firm Sodexho found 80% of those living at home paid no rent and many had jobs.
Many commuted long distances and took no part in university social life.
Prof Stuart Sanderson, of Bradford University School of Management, said they were missing out on the wider aspects of university education.
The survey found students living at home were commuting as much as four hours a day and were five times as likely to have part-time paid employment during term time than their counterparts living in halls.
And two thirds of them said they never joined in with campus social activities.
Students who lived at home were three times more likely to attend a modern university than a traditional or red-brick institution.
And 18% of students said being able to live at home was the most important reason for choosing the university they went to.
Prof Sanderson said: "These findings bear out what many of us working in higher education have suspected for a little time - that increasingly students are choosing their university because of their lifestyle choice as well as class and income.
"There is a clear group of students who worry more about being saddled with a huge debt when they graduate, and have adapted the traditional university lifestyle. They live at home, commute long-distances, work in term-time and pursue their social life almost entirely off campus.
"They are missing out on the wider aspects of a university education while better-off undergraduates can spread their wings and whoop it up a little with their peers."
The survey found a third of Britain's students worked part-time during term time, with 60% of these working between 11 and 35 hours a week.
But of those with jobs, one in five still had less than £30 a week to live on after paying their rent.
More than half of all the students questioned lived on £50 or less per week and one in 10 on less than £20.
While one in four students expected to graduate debt-free - up from one in 10 four years ago - most estimate they will graduate with an average debt of £11, 345 - or £9,418 for those living at home.
The survey also debunks the myth of drunkenness as synonymous with student life, with 21% of students saying they never drank alcohol.
Veronica King, NUS vice president for welfare, said she was not surprised more students were studying closer to home considering the "huge expense" of rent and bills on top of tuition fees and other basic living costs.
She said: "Our concerns are that these students are choosing an institution which might not be suitable for their needs or aspirations just because it is close to home.
"How are these students going to learn the 'soft skills' that graduate recruiters were bemoaning only a few months ago when they are stuck on a train trying to get to their lecture?"
Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said there was nothing new in students taking term-time jobs to supplement their lifestyle, but the abolition of up-front fees from September this year and bursaries for less well-off students would make money less of a concern.
"The new financial support available should mean that students can focus on making the right course and institution choices, without worrying unnecessarily about money," he said.
I returned to full time education last year at the age of 27. I live 40 minutes away from campus even though I'm at the university closest to my home. Although I live independently I was surprised to find many students in the same boat as me, most of whom have chosen to stay at home with parents to avoid running up massive debts. None of us seem to play any real part in "university life" and all have jobs that account for at least two days per week. It can feel very isolating and you can't help but wonder if the university experience is passing a whole generation of us by.
Vicki Sargent, Dursley, Glos
Due to the payments towards education, I have decided to stay at home as I have witnessed the difficulties on studying at campus. It is a known fact that entering university makes many student become "poor", even book prices have soared.
This is another way of saying: "the richer become richer and the poorer become poorer."
Ilyas Javed, London UK
I'm currently a postgraduate student and lived in accommodation on campus in 1997 at a cost of £38.50 a week. Accommodation for next year's (1996-97) students in the same rooms has gone up to £59.50 per week which equates to 55% over nine years. In addition the trend for newer ensuite accomodation has brought weekly rents up to around £80 per week for much smaller rooms. Is it a surprise people are staying home?
Duncan McCaffery, Lancaster, UK
In Ireland, most people who live in a city with a university that teaches a course they want to do go to that university and live at home. I had a great time as an undergraduate living at home in Dublin and did not miss out on the social scene. Plenty of my friends now work in the city and none of us has been criticised for lacking "soft skills". In fact, I am sure there is something to be said for living in the real world instead of in a campus cocoon.
Matthew, London, England
I am beginning university in September 2006, and because I am not poor enough for government grants but not rich enough to afford tuition fees anyway, I am having to live with my Dad in order to keep out of as much debt as possible. I want to do a psychology degree, and then follow that with a masters and doctorate in forensic psychology. Tuition fees alone for these courses amount to £23,500, so I have no choice but to live at home, or I could easily be in debt of £45,000 if I had to pay for living costs. Consequently, I have been limited to one university choice for September because I will have to commute.
Sara Giles, Telford, England
I have found that if I work all I can during holidays I can afford to live at university and could afford to even if my parents were not contributing to my degree - just. I don't see why students are being put off what will be the best three or four years of their lives by the prospect of £11,000 debt which in real terms isn't a great deal of money - just ask anyone who has just bought a house!
I spent the first two years of my degree living at home. Eventually the three to four hours commuting, which cost around £8 a day, got the better of me and I moved closer to my university. Not only was I missing out on the social side but travelling in just for a lecture or library visit takes all motivation out of you. I used to work 20 hours a week and saved up a lot of money to fund myself for the next two years - my grades have vastly improved.
In July 2005 I graduated with a law degree from Durham University. I live 20 miles from the city and made the commute from home every day. I did turn down offers from London institutions such as LSE and UCL so that I could continue to live at home. Unfortunately, I, like many others, fall into the gap where my parents are not wealthy enough to afford tuition fees on top of having my younger brother and sister to support but not poor enough to qualify for government help.
That left me to foot the bills for tuition with a 20 hour per week job which did hinder me at times. I now have debts over £10,000, set to more than double with my barrister training costs loan. Did I miss out on some things? Yes, but money is master.
Lee Dowling, Hebburn, England
I went to uni in the early 90s, lived on campus, didn't pay tuition fees and loved it. I feel really sorry for students of today who do not have the chance to enjoy the life I did. It was by far the best three years of my life and I would still encourage anyone who is not too scared of the debts to go away and have fun - you won't regret it.