Once you've decided where you're going to go to university you'll need to start thinking about where you want to live. You'll most likely want to live in halls of residence in your first year, and universities either provide their own or they'll have a partnership with a private halls provider.
Your first choice university will send you information about their accommodation and how to apply. It's likely that you'll have the spring to complete this, until approximately the end of June.
There are plenty of options to suit all personalities, and also all budgets, from shared rooms to en-suites.
University Halls of Residence
Accommodation in universities commonly consists of catered or self-catered halls of residence. Halls of residence are accommodation blocks offering private study bedrooms to large numbers of students. The rooms will be grouped together around some shared facilities, which will depend on whether you choose catered, or self-catered. They all have security and generally have a warden who lives on the premise who will be able to help, advise and look after you. Some halls offer the option to share a room, which can help reduce costs.
Facilities will include a single room with a single bed and mattress, wardrobe, desk, desk chair and storage space. Some rooms will have their own sink, some even their own en-suite, while others will share bathroom facilities. You will also share kitchen facilities, and the kitchen facilities available will depend upon whether you are catered or self-catered. If you are self-catered, your kitchen will consist of an oven, fridge, freezer, microwave, toaster, etc., while in catered you'll be provided with more limited facilities. You will need to bring your own cutlery, plates, bowls, cups, pots and pans, and tea-towels, and what you need will depend on whether you are in catered or self-catered - if you don't know what your halls will provide it's best to arrive before shopping for all your bits and bobs. You will also have access to a telephone line and internet, most probably have a basic cleaning service and have laundry services on site. You will also have a common room where you can hang out, meet other people, play games or watch TV, or some sort of social area. Most halls also provide contents insurance (check with your university to confirm this) and utilities such as electricity and water should be included in the price.
Most halls will be mixed, but you may have the option of at least single sex corridors or flats. When applying for accommodation, universities will try to place you in the most suitable hall, by asking you for your top choices or whether you want catered/self-catered, ensuite etc. They will also ask you a few questions about yourself so you'll be more likely to live with people you'd choose to be friends with.
With the advances of technology it's also possible to speak to those you'll be living with before you leave home via facebook or twitter - many halls have their own pages - so if you've any queries about living away from home or want to know what your friends-to-be are like, there are a million ways to get in contact with them.
Catered or Self-Catered?
The food you get in catered halls varies from university to university, but it will be likely to include breakfast and evening meals during the weekdays, with lunch at the weekends. Students will pay extra for catered halls of residence, although it does work out slightly cheaper, and you do not have to worry about what you are going to eat and will save time as you've not got to shop or cook. However, if you're looking to do lots of activities, you may find the schedule rather restrictive. Self-catered halls gives you the option of eating what you want, when you want, but you'll have to find time in your day to cook and shop. You’ll also have to spend a bit of money at first buying some basic equipment for your kitchen.
If you do go for the self-catered option (or if your university doesn't offer catered), it's also likely that you'll be able to buy a food card or a meal plan. A meal plan card allows you to buy a certain number of meals a day at a university catering outlet, and you'll be able to choose from a number of different options depending on how flexible you want to be, while a food card allows you to pay-as-you-go for meals within the university. This may be an easier option than having to cook everyday, but it may be more expensive than either cooking yourself or taking the fully catered option.
Private Halls of Residence
Many universities don't have their own halls so instead they are offered by a private company. This can either be in agreement with the university, or through an entirely separate organisation. Those that are offered in agreement with the university are advertised on their website and they market them along with any of their own.
Private halls are mainly self-catered, and offer more amenities than university halls. They are more likely to consist of single, en-suite rooms, and there is also often the option of a studio flat which will have its own small kitchen. Otherwise approximately 4 to 6 rooms share a kitchen, along with a communal area. Private halls still maintain on-site security, while they may also offer a number of additional facilities, such as a gym.
If you're moving to university with friends from home you may also be able to move into a flat with your friends.
Some universities don't give you the choice of where to stay as all their accommodation is in one area, however private halls are often dotted around the city. If you know that your lectures are likely to centre around one area, it's advisable to choose a halls nearby so you don't have to get out of bed too early or deal with public transport.
The price of your room in halls will depend on the city you live in and the distance to your campus. Self-catered is cheaper, but you'll also have to remember to factor in money for food and equipment. In 2012-2013 the average catered rent for a single room cost £143.82, while a self-catered room cost £97.08, however this figure will be a lot higher in London, and will be less in other areas of the country.
We've also put together a little table of average student rents in university halls, nomination agreements (privately owned halls linked to your university) and private providers to give you some idea of home much you'll need and how far your student loan might go.
One thing to note is that the table gives weekly rents. Rents offered by the university and many nomination agreements will have a shorter tenancy agreements than private providers - about 41 weeks instead of 52 - while they will also depend on whether you choose a en-suite room and catered etc.
|Region/Provider||University Halls||Nomination Agreement||Private Provider|
|East of England||£143.57||£142.17||£119.64|
Source: NUS Accommodation Costs Survey
Length of Residency
Halls often have a shorter length of residency than private flats, the average being 41 weeks per year, where you can vacate your room for the summer. This is useful if you want to go home to work during the summer and get some money together for the next year or a holiday. It's also one thing to consider when you are budgeting. It is common to pay an initial deposit (approximately £200 which is refundable after the end of the tenancy subject to any deductions for damage) and administration fees, and the rest of the rent three times a year, on a termly basis.
If you are looking to attend the university with the highest housing satisfaction for students, the National Student Housing Survey (NSHS) measures the satisfaction levels in all types of accommodation with the 2014 survey attracting approximately 19,000 responses from more than 200 universities and colleges across the UK.
The students halls with the highest level of student satisfaction were:
- University of Lancaster
- University of East Anglia
- Northumbria University
- University of the West of England, Bristol
- Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine
- University of Derby
- University of Essex
- Cardiff Metropolitan University
- University of Southampton
- The Manchester Metropolitan University
Private halls that gained the highest level of student satisfaction were The Student Housing Company which launched in 2009 and currently has residences in 9 UK cities.