Student Accommodation: All the Options Explained
Choosing where to live as a student is the most important decision you have to make after deciding on your university and course.
“How much is it all going to cost?”
“What are all the options?”
“What’s the most important factor to me?”
“Are there things to consider that I haven’t thought of yet?”
This guide will help you compare the options and decide what will work best for you.
A little note: we are not advocating private accommodation over shared houses in this article. We are wanting to use this opportunity to highlight some of the factors that may make it an attractive choice for some students.
What are the different types of student accommodation?
There are three main types of student accommodation. University-managed halls are the most widely known. University halls are usually targeted at first year or international students. Whilst most students love their hall experience in first year, most move on to somewhere new the following year. This is the general trend but there are also very good reasons for this: 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.
So what are the alternatives to university halls? The other two most common types of accommodation are private accommodation and shared houses. 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. A shared house is owned by a private landlord and rented by a group of students. Shared houses are off-campus and are an option for students in any year.
Which one is right for me?
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.
Typically shared houses are thought to be cheaper than private accommodation but this isn’t always the case, especially when you take into account hidden costs. Try and calculate the actual costs by factoring in all the different things you will need to pay for and then shop around. Also, keep an eye out for incentives as private accommodation providers sometimes throw in nice perks such as a discount or even a free bike!
In private accommodation, costs are all-inclusive which means all your bills like heating, electricity, wifi and water are included. Quite a few shared private landlords will include some or all bills into the rental price, so make sure you know what is included and what isn’t.
Living in all-inclusive accommodation is great for helping you manage your budget but it also makes quite a few other bits of life admin easier. This is a big incentive if you’re an international student with enough on your plate with trying to find their way around a new place and a new culture.
One of the more stressful things about a shared house can be deciding how to split the bills or disagreements over money in general. People in your shared house might be on different budgets and might not be up for having the heating on that much or paying for the sky movie package! You might get top marks for taking on the responsibility of organising the utilities, but it is often hard work for any group and can become a major headache if you don’t get it sorted early on.
You might be unfortunate enough to have a dodgy landlord that refuses to repay your deposit because one of your housemates has wrecked their room. Private accommodation allows you to have a shared flat with your friends and reduce some of the headaches of doing life with other people.
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 parents.
Location is a key aspect to think about when it comes to the everyday: How far away is your campus? Are there supermarkets and other useful amenities nearby? What’s the transport situation like? As private accommodation blocks are built with students in mind, location is one of the top priorities so you can expect that they will be positioned either close to campus or next to excellent transport links. Amenities will also be nearby and some blocks even have supermarkets or cafes attached to them. With shared houses you have the freedom to choose the location, depending on house availability of course. This can be an issue if people are working with different budgets, so be clear on budget up-front.
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
Another factor to consider is what happens when something goes wrong. What if the boiler stops working? Or there is a power outage? Or a door handle falls off? 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 there will be a dedicated maintenance team so you can expect that, generally speaking, problems will get fixed a bit quicker.
How good are you at cleaning? Be honest! We all set out with the best intentions but houses require cleaning… fairly regularly! Being left holding the Cif when a couple of your housemates bail on the end of term house-clear-out is a pretty grim experience! If cleaning isn’t one of your strengths, private accommodation may be a good option for you. They have dedicated cleaning teams to keep communal spaces spic and span and some even do in-room cleaning too. If you’re tidy and know how to use a vacuum cleaner then a shared house will work fine but it is up to you and your housemates to keep your house clean. Cleaning is one of the top three things, along with budget and noise levels, that causes tension in a shared house so be aware of your own expectations.
Aside from getting a degree, the social side to 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 would 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.
Private accommodation often offers more luxurious student living compared to shared houses that come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and standards. With private accommodation, you can view the different available options, choose which has the best layout or which one has the best view. You and your friends can decide whether you all want ensuite rooms or, if you want to keep things on the smaller side, you can share an apartment with just your best mate. Alternatively, if you are keen for more space to yourself, there are self-contained studios.
If there is one area that private accommodation delivers on it’s the emphasis on creating a community. The buildings 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 put on social events and experiences such as karaoke, yoga classes, games night and a lot more.
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. 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 what is important to you.
Both options 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 (and it keeps parents happy too!). 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.
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.
We hope this has given you some helpful tools to identify the key areas that need to be considered for you to be happy in your new home.
Do more research:
- Use our review platform to read reviews from students like you on every aspect of university life.
- Take a look at our accommodation league tables for private accommodation in every university city or town.
- Watch students describing their experiences living in different types of accommodation during the coronavirus pandemic.