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How to pick the right student housing

Different types of accommodation:

University halls

Most first-year students are allocated a place in university-managed accommodation or ‘halls’, which certainly has its advantages.

In terms of making friends, living with other students is a great way to get to know people you may end up becoming good friends with (and even living with next year). Note, some university-managed halls might not be on campus, but located in the local city or town instead.

You’re also conveniently located, so you don't have to worry about commuting in daily for lectures, group work or to use the library (as well as for the more fun stuff like societies, clubs and activities put on by your student union).

If you’re going to be living away from home for the first time, halls can also be good preparation for living in the private-rented sector as you have many of the benefits of independence, but without needing to think about the complications of utility bills or landlords. You’re also likely to be well supported by the housing office or university itself if anything goes wrong.
 

Pros

Cons

Social scene: a good chance to meet lots of students in one place.

Being thrown in at the deep end: you don't get to choose who you live with.

You're not alone: extra support will be available from your university if you need it.

No guarantees: you might not get a place in your preferred accommodation.

It's the 'halfway' house option: easing you gently in to living away from home.

Living near to lots of students: get used to putting up with noise and mess!

 

 

Private student halls

A second option in some areas is to go for a room in a private accommodation.

The set-up is similar to halls managed by universities – you have your own room and you share communal areas like a kitchen or TV room  but it's owned by a private company. Studio apartments may be available too (though these are usually pricier). Private hall providers are quite common in big cities like London or Manchester, which have several universities based there (and thus lots of students looking for a place to live).

If you’re considering this option, make sure you do some research into what you'll be getting for your money ie bills that are included (including any upfront costs you'll need to account for) and facilities on site.

Private halls can be a great way to expand your social circles, as you may find students from other universities in the same building. When browsing providers, check what communal spaces are available plus any regular activities or events for residents to meet and socialise.

Your university will have an approved list of private accommodation providers, and may even have a more formal partnership in place with one already (especially if they don't have enough places in their own halls to meet demand).
 

Pros

Cons

Built for students: so the same advantages as students in university halls apply.

Extra costs: factor in any up-front or additional costs, while studio rentals will be pricier.

Mod cons: handy perks such as wi-fi can be part of the package.

Unnecessary perks: some private halls have plush extras (eg saunas, cinema rooms), which look cool but you may never actually use.

Location, location: you'll be close to all the student action (not necessarily limited to just your university).

Same student pitfalls apply: noise, not choosing who you live with, mess and so on.

 

 

 

Private accommodation

Others may prefer not to live in halls of any kind and move straight into the private rented sector, where you rent a house or flat with a group from a landlord or letting agent.

Sometimes it'll be your choice – if you're a mature student who wants their own living space outside the realms of the university, for instance.

Other times, it might not be – not all universities are able to guarantee a place in halls of residence for all first-year students (it's a good question to ask at an open day) – so you could be among those who miss out, especially if you've come through Clearing or are late with your application.

Living in a privately rented property can be appealing as it enables you to decide exactly where you live and who with. While it can be tricky to find those in a similar position and organise viewings if you haven't moved to university yet, your housing office can assist you with this eg matching you up with others, recommending approved lists of landlords etc. 

Most students move into privately rented accommodation after the first year anyway (while it's also further preparation for post-uni life).

Pros

Cons

Independence: you're in charge of where and with whom you're living.

Further out: you may find yourself outside the main campus.

Local area: whereas your university's halls might all be on campus, private housing options actually in town can make you feel part of the local community more.

Managing bills: you'll need to budget, especially if you've never lived away from home before.

Flexibility: the private rental market is packed with different living options to suit you.

Dealing with admin: you'll be dealing directly with a landlord or letting agent. Over one in ten students we surveyed (Which? University Student Survey 2019) said they had issues with their landlord, while 13% had issues with their letting agent.

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