Ultimate Guide to Student Accommodation in the UK
Choosing where to live as a student is the most important decision you have to make after deciding on your university and course. There are lots of types of student housing that you may live in throughout your time at university. Out of these options, there is no correct or better choice. Focus, instead, on what will be best for your needs and priorities. Before you begin your search, ask yourself the following questions:
“Will my student loan cover my rent?”
“What are all the options in my city or town?”
“What’s the most important accommodation feature to me?”
This university guide will help you compare the options and decide what will work best for you.
What are the different types of student accommodation?
There are three main types of student properties.
University-managed halls are the most widely known. University halls are usually targeted at first year or international students but this is not always the case. Whilst most students love their hall experience in first year, most move on to somewhere new the following year.
University halls can be very noisy due to nights out and the management of university halls can sometimes be quite strict. Second and final year students are often seeking more of an independent lifestyle, which is all part and parcel of university life.
The second type of property is private accommodation. Private accommodation is privately-owned purpose-built accommodation specifically for students. It can cater for students in any year of study and offer groups of friends or individuals a variety of options such as an ensuite bedroom in a shared flat, self-contained studios and apartments. This type of residence usually has on-site amenities such as a gym, study spaces, games room or public lounge.
The third option is a shared house on the rental market. Generally students in second and final year will share the rent of a house owned by a private landlord or estate agent. This can range from a studio apartment to a 10-bedroom house.
Shared houses are off-campus and are an option for students in any year. Depending on your rental contract, you may have bills included in your rent costs. It is important to check this before you sign a contract: do you need to arrange to pay electricity, WiFi and gas costs?
Which student property type is right for you?
There is so much to think about when weighing up the different accommodation options. It's a good idea to set out what factors are important to you before you launch into an accommodation hunt with a bunch of new friends you may have only known for a couple of months.
Cost and location are two of the big deciding factors but there are a wide range of other things that you may not immediately think of that can impact your university experience like sorting out the bills, the ease of everyday life, security, cleaning and maintenance.
Catered vs Self Catered Accommodation
Catered halls are a type of accommodation that includes meals served in a canteen. This option is great if you don’t know how to cook, or you want to save time. Some halls will serve 3 meals a day, 7 days a week, whereas others will only serve food on weekdays.
Depending on which type of catered accommodation you live in, you may need to factor in additional funds for meals at the weekend. Some catered halls include a small kitchenette in each flat for you to use when meals aren’t available. At some universities, students in catered accommodation receive a meal-card they can use to buy food on campus, so you don’t have to come back to halls during the day for food.
Self-catered halls provide kitchen facilities in each flat. You will be required to cook your own meals and buy your own food. If you enjoy cooking or want to learn how, self-catered would be best for you!
Once you move out of university halls, self-catered accommodation will probably be the only option, so consider learning this important independent skill now! Self-catered halls will be cheaper than catered halls, but this is because they do not include food costs.
If you are on a budget, work out how much your weekly food would be if you chose self-catered accommodation. Use this number to work out the difference in cost between catered and self-catered halls. It may be cheaper for you to live in catered halls if your weekly food shop is expensive. This may be the case for students in London where living costs are higher.
Ensuite vs Shared Bathroom
Having an ensuite bathroom means you will have your own private shower, sink and toilet attached to your room. This is suitable for students who value privacy and are willing to pay a little extra for the luxury of a personal bathroom.
Shared bathrooms are more common in university halls and shared houses. Generally a bathroom will be shared with up to 4 people, but this will depend on the number of students living in your flat or corridor. The rent for this option is usually cheaper than accommodation with ensuite bathrooms. This makes shared bathrooms a good option if you are on a budget.
How much does student accommodation cost?
Student rent costs will vary depending on which city you are studying in. The capital city of each country is more likely to be expensive student accommodation. London rents are, on average, almost always the highest in the country. This makes living costs higher for students at universities in London. If you want to study and live in London, think about how you can cut your budget in other areas such as choosing a shared bathroom or reducing your energy bill.
Rent costs may seem expensive in one city, but the same price may be relatively inexpensive in another. Check out our cheapest university cities guide to gain some perspective on typical rent prices.
Typically shared houses are thought to be cheaper than private accommodation but this isn’t always the case. Try and calculate the actual costs by factoring in rent, electricity, WiFi, heating, water and other bills. Then you can do a direct comparison of your housing options.
In private accommodation, costs are all-inclusive, combining rent and bills. A few shared private landlords also include some or all bills into the rental price, so make sure you know what is included and what isn’t when you sign your contract.
Living in accommodation which has bills included is great for saving time and helping you manage your student finances. This is a big incentive if you’re an international student and you want to focus your time on adjusting to the new culture and making friends.
Shared housing that doesn’t include bills with the rent price can be more stressful if you find it hard to stay organised.
Before you move in, decide who is going to keep track of each type of bill. Your housemates may be on a lower budget to you, and have different opinions on how often the heating should be on. Try to reach a budget agreement on bills, making it fair for everyone. If you keep on top of it, you should have no problems.
Before you move into shared housing, you will need to pay a deposit. This is usually equivalent to 1 month of rent. It is here to ensure you look after the house you live in. Landlords will check the property when you move out to see if you kept it in good condition.
You may not receive all of your deposit back if the landlord has to fix anything in disrepair after you have lived there. This can be avoided by being considerate of the house, cleaning it regularly and reporting issues you can’t fix quickly.
Student Roost - Swanston House
Swanston House is brilliant for the location and is the closest accommodation to the city centre, you really can’t get any closer. This makes having a job in the city centre/Victoria sq. so much more accessible and easier
What area should I live in when at university?
Of course, there is a lot more to your accommodation choice than just cost. It’s really important to think about the logistics of everyday life and what that entails, especially if it's your first time living away from your parents.
Location is a key aspect to think about when it comes to the everyday: how far away is your campus? Are there supermarkets, coffee shops and bars nearby? Are you close to public transport routes? Do you want to live in an urban area or close to green spaces?
For some of the largest cities in the country, the student population live in a variety of locations, from the city centre to further out in the suburbs. Most university-managed halls and private accommodation will be within walking distance of campus, and some will be accessible by public transport. Some student accommodation blocks even have supermarkets or cafes attached to them.
Shared housing gives you the freedom to choose which area you want to live in. Perhaps you want to be close to the park or train station. Selecting a shared house in your desired location will depend on housing availability. Generally the closer you are to the city centre, the more expensive the rent will be. Chat to your potential housemates about budget and location preferences to help narrow your choices.
How do I fix problems in my student house?
Another factor to consider is what happens when something goes wrong. What if the boiler stops working? Or there is a power outage? Or if your door lock is broken?
In a shared house, it's up to you to contact your landlord or letting agent to get someone round to the house to fix it. In private accommodation and university halls, there will be a dedicated maintenance team you can contact to fix whatever is broken.
How often should I clean my student flat?
How good are you at cleaning? You should be cleaning your space at least once a week. Try to arrange with your housemates a good schedule and split the responsibility of cleaning the shared spaces.
Cleaning is one of the three things, along with budget and noise levels, that causes tension when living with others so be aware of your own expectations.
When it comes to your own room, only you are going to hold yourself accountable for cleaning it. You could set an allocated time each week to clean your space, so it is part of your weekly routine.
If cleaning isn’t one of your strengths, private accommodation may be a good option for you. They often have dedicated cleaning teams to keep communal spaces spic and span and some even do in-room cleaning too.
How sociable is student life in accommodation?
Aside from getting a degree, the social side of university is one of the most important parts of the whole experience. It's key for mental health to feel part of a community and to be able to share the highs and lows with like-minded people. It’s also highly important to international students who benefit from a ready-made community.
In both a shared house and private accommodation, you can get your closest friends together to make up a household. Plenty of students go to private accommodation by themselves too and can have peace of mind that the providers will try to place them in a flat with the best-suited flatmates.
If there is one area that private accommodation delivers on better than university-managed halls, it’s the emphasis on creating a community. The buildings often offer great communal spaces where you can hang out with friends, meet your neighbours or invite friends over to use. These spaces can be anything from a lounge, cinema room, gym or games room to a private dining room, conference room and some even have a bowling alley! As well as this, they often put on social events and experiences such as karaoke, yoga classes, games night and a lot more.
How safe is student housing?
Feeling safe and secure wherever you are living is absolutely vital. When you are looking at shared houses with friends, make sure to ask the landlord or letting agent about the security of the property. You will also have some responsibility as the resident to keep the property safe through locking doors and windows and keeping valuables out of sight.
Private accommodation is more likely to have CCTV, a secure entry system, security staff including a night manager, secure bike storage and possible car parking facilities. Whatever options you’re weighing up, make sure you ask questions about whether security is important to you.
Student Roost - Byrom Point, Liverpool
I wanted the independence of living away from home for the first time but also wanted to have someone around if i needed anything .The staff at byrom couldnt be any more helpful.
Does private accommodation limit your independence as a student?
All types of accommodation give students independence which is such an important aspect of every student's needs. Living in a shared house gives you a great deal of independence as it is just you and your housemates and you can come and go as you please.
Some people think that private accommodation doesn’t offer as much independence as a shared house but lots of reviews on StudentCrowd actually reveal the opposite.
Many students find they have freedom of choice and the independence they desire from private accommodation but with the added bonus of having the support of an on-site team around should they need anything. There are also added perks of having a parcel collection service, someone to sign for your grocery delivery or, if you have forgotten your key, someone to let you in.
Can I rent student accommodation in the summer?
Yes, some accommodation providers offer summer contracts, so you can enjoy your holidays in a university town or city. Providers often offer short-term and flexible leases for this season, so you can extend your stay or cut it short if your plans change.
Summer lets are usually contracted for 6 weeks, which should cover the gap between your first year accommodation contract ending and your new academic year starting. This can be a great option if you have a work placement over the summer, or just want to stay independent and living away from home.
Find out more about summer accommodation here.