Moving away from home can conjure up different ideas for different people; for some, being able to bring whoever you want back after a night out, eating what you want and when you want, and having your room in that particular type of messy where you ‘know where everything is’ is exactly what many people crave. For others, it’s the thought of becoming an amateur cook fit for MasterChef, managing your own budget and having your own space that looks just how you want. The great thing about applying to university is that you get to choose a lifestyle that suits you best.
The first thing to realise is that you don’t necessarily need to move away from home in order to study. There are many reasons why students choose to stay at their permanent address and one in five students live at home while studying.
However, if you are looking to move away then this page will provide you with lots of tips.
Most first year students who need somewhere to live will live in halls of residence which are large, purpose built developments full of students. In your first year you’ll probably live in halls. Often, this accommodation is provided by your university or college and your room will be confirmed when you accept your place at the institution. There are two codes which accredit student accommodation provided by education establishments. You can find out if the accommodation you are looking at is a member of either of these by checking out their websites:
There are also private providers of student accommodation who may book your accommodation entirely separately from the institution or in partnership with it. There is a National Code which assures this accommodation is of good quality and can be found at www.nationalcode.org.
There may be options for accommodation designed for students with partners or children available, so make enquiries with your university or college if this would better suit your needs.
Rent in halls is generally more expensive than renting in the local private rented sector but will usually have utility bills included, internet access and security. Average rent can be around £100 per week, but vary a large amount so look to see what’s available and fits into your budget. You might be able to pay as little as £50 per week in some areas, but in central London some high-specification rooms might be £200 or more. Generally, rents in London and the South East of England are more expensive than other parts of the UK, though expect a large variation in prices across the country, or even within the same city.
Length of contract
In some halls, you might sign to a contract of around 36 weeks – this is basically all term time, which means that you move out of your room for holiday periods, and leave permanently when term ends in the summer. The pros of this are there are less weeks you’re paying rent for, but on the other hand this requires you to move out of your room completely at least three times.
If you would rather have a permanent base, there are increasing numbers of longer contracts available, from forty to fifty-two weeks.
Some places will offer catered options for accommodation where you can get dinners or all your meals provided. This will make your rent more expensive, but you may save money and time not having to do grocery shopping.
If you want more independence, you might want to opt for a self-catered option; generally this will be a ‘flat’ with between four and ten students who share a kitchen, and living space. Increasingly living spaces have a table or a sofa to allow you to socialise with your flatmates.
In terms of bathrooms, some halls will have en suite bathrooms, where you have exclusive use of a toilet and shower. This might be favourable if you value your privacy, though it can add a fair amount onto your rent (budget for an extra £25 per week). Others may have bathrooms that are shared between students; usually there will be one bathroom to two to four students. This might seem daunting, but actually lots of people prefer shared bathroom facilities; it encourages you to meet your flatmates and learn valuable life lessons about sharing toiletries!
You might decide that halls-type accommodation is not for you, and might want to look to rent from a local landlord in a shared house. Ask with the accommodation office at your university or college first to find out if there are landlords they can recommend, or an accreditation scheme to give you assurances about the standard of the property.
Some universities or colleges may provide accommodation for the full length of your course, and others may have spare accommodation for returning students if requested, so if you’d like to explore that option, make enquiries early. Most undergraduate students however tend to move out into the local private rented sector for their second and subsequent years.
You will generally need to start looking for a house in the middle of your first year, but you can find out from your students’ union when househunting season starts and when approved housing lists are released. It's best to wait until housing fairs, househunting talks and for these lists to be available to make sure you’re opting for an approved landlord and are informed of your rights and responsibilities as a tenant.
Don’t necessarily move in with the first person you meet in Freshers’ week and although you may be totally in love with the person you met last week, don’t assume you will want to live with them in six months’ time. Everyone who lives together is going to end up having a row at some point or other, but do try to choose people you are compatible with as housemates.
There’s plenty of information on www.nus.org.uk to give you tips on moving into the PRS, where you can find a househunting checklist to take with you to properties to help ensure you pick a goodun.
• Check that the front and back doors are fitted with five-lever mortise locks in addition to standard catch locks.
• Make sure the door to your room has a lock, and always lock it when you leave it – especially for long periods such as vacations.
• Check the locks and catches on accessible windows, especially those at ground-floor level.
• Before you move in, look up the area and find out how safe the area is and whether there have been many instances of burglary or car crime.
• Ask your landlord to ensure that all previous tenants and holders of keys no longer have copies.
• If you find a property that you’re keen to rent, but you’re unsure about some of the security aspects, speak to the letting agency or landlord to discuss your concerns. They may be able to make the necessary changes to make the property more secure before you move in.
Most contracts will last for all 52 weeks of the year, so you’ll need to pay rent during vacations.