Plymouth has so far lost around £25m due to coronavirus pandemic as the student population returned home, new research has found.
While London, Cardiff and Glasgow are the worst affected cities in the UK, all areas with a university have been hit hard by the rapid decrease in population.
Research, carried out by Studee, shows the true cost of the pandemic for university cities and towns in the last six months.
It found that Plymouth was worst hit in the grocery sector, with a loss of £10.9m.
Transport was the second worst hit sector, with a loss of £3.1m.
Around £2.9M was not spent on socialising and £2.7m lost on takeaways.
The city also lost out on a further £2.3m in the clothing sector.
The data also shows that London lost a whopping £580,964,400, Cardiff, £120,607,290 and Glasgow £120,362,160.
No towns or cities in the South West appeared on the worst hit list overall, but both Exeter and Falmouth appeared in the top 20 biggest impact list.
Falmouth came in at number 13, with a loss of £8,827,950.
Exeter came in at number 20, with a loss of £37,665,060.
Exeter was also included in the top 20 worst hit in the health and wellbeing sector, coming in at a loss of £2,551,020.
Laura Rettie, Vice President of Studee, said: “It’s no wonder the government has been so keen to get students back to university, despite the fact mass movement of young people during a pandemic probably isn’t the wisest course of action.
“Students bring a huge amount of money into the areas they choose to study in – money many small towns simply can’t afford to lose.
“Students have recently been blamed for coronavirus outbreaks, but we shouldn’t be using students as scapegoats when it was the government who urged them to get back to campus, with no clear guidance about studying online instead.
“Sadly for many university towns across the country the economic pain is likely to be felt for many years to come.”