Your Guide To Student Accommodation At University (Private, Halls, And More)

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There are many things about university that will be quite new from the increased independence to how you’re taught and much more. One of the main differences when studying at university is that you also need to arrange where you’re going to live. For most students, this will be their first time living away from home and let’s face it, that can be pretty scary.

One of the scariest parts is not knowing how it all works and even what your options are when it comes to student accommodation. However, with all the right information, you’ll know all about student accommodation and just what you’re supposed to do, taking away the fear of the unknown.

This article will take you through all the different types of student accommodation, explaining what they are and why they may or may not be a good option for you. As well as answer some of your burning questions about how the process works for student accommodation.

University accommodation vs private accommodation

When it comes to student accommodation, there are 2 main types of management that it can fall under. These are university-managed accommodation and privately managed accommodation.

University-managed accommodation is exactly as it sounds. This is where your accommodation is owned and managed by your university, meaning that your university is your landlord.

Privately managed accommodation is where you rent from a private organisation outside of your university. This can either be done with an actual student accommodation company. However, you may also rent at a house or flat in accommodation that isn’t just for students.

You can learn more about these in this article by Prospects.

While they can often offer similar kinds of accommodation for students, there are still some pretty evident differences between university managed accommodation and private accommodation. With this, there are also different pros and cons to them.

The following table shows you some of the pros and cons of university managed accommodation.

Pros Cons
Often on campus so close to your lectures. There are often limited places so accommodation may only be open to 1st years.
Easier to meet people as lots of the people around you will be in the same situation. May not get your top choice of accommodation type.
Option of catered accommodation if you don’t want to make your own food. There may be certain rules that your university sets.

Look at the following table to see some of the pros and cons of privately managed accommodation.

Pros Cons
Get to choose the type of accommodation you want and have more variety to choose from. Further away from campus.
Often more space. Often more expensive.
Often sharing with fewer other people. More difficult and stressful to find accommodation you like.

You can find more about these pros and cons and other by checking out these articles, here and here, from the London School of Economics (LSE) blog, as well as this article by Valor Properties.

What are the types of student accommodation in the UK?

Now that we’ve established the different types of management that student accommodation can fall under, let’s look into what the actual types there are of student accommodation. In order to do this, we actually need to break down the types of student accommodation a little further. In this case, we need to split up the types of student accommodation for the level that the students are studying at.

In the UK, undergraduate and postgraduate accommodation tend to be slightly different.

When it comes to undergraduate student accommodation, the main types that you get in the UK are university-managed student halls, private student halls and student shared housing. You can learn more about the types of undergraduate accommodation in this page on the UCAS website.

Whereas for postgraduate students, the student accommodation will typically be university-managed student halls, private flats and studios and shared student houses or flats. You can learn more about these types of postgraduate student accommodation in this article by Postgrad.com.

You can learn more about each of these types of student housing and how they can be different between for undergraduate and postgraduate students in the following sections.

What are student halls UK?

Student halls or halls of residence are blocks of student flats. These will be self-contained with each containing only catering to a limited number of students, typically having individual rooms. Students will typically share a corridor as well as facilities, such as a kitchen and a bathroom, unless students have ensuite bedrooms.

As previously mentioned, student halls can either be private or university-managed. The facilities provided to you in halls will depend on your university or the private company that you are renting from.

However, they often come with communal spaces and may even have added bonuses, such as on-site laundry services or even a gym or cinema room.

Despite varying between each, there are certain key factors about them that are shared. Look at the following list to see the pros and cons of living in student halls of residence.

Pros Cons
Cleaners for shared spaces. Have to deal with other people’s mess.
Often very sociable, which can make meeting people easier. May be noisy and even distracting at times.
Bills are included in the price so no need to worry about these separately. Don’t get to choose who you live with.
Wi-fi will often be included. May have certain rules that you need to follow.

You can learn more about student halls you can check out this article by Prospects. If you would like more on the pros and cons of student halls, check out this article by The Independent and this article from the LSE student blog.

What is the difference between undergraduate and postgraduate student halls UK?

As previously mentioned, undergraduate and postgraduate accommodation tends to be slightly different. When it comes to postgraduate student halls, they tend to be separate from undergraduate accommodations as well as quieter.

Other than this, postgraduate student halls can physically be quite similar to undergraduate ones. There are generally options for catered accommodation and some accommodations will have shared bathrooms and others have ensuite bathrooms.

Due to this, the benefits and drawbacks will also generally be the same. However, universities also tend to offer more accommodation than just halls of residence in the traditional sense.

While still living in university-managed accommodation, students may have the opportunity to stay in studios or have double rooms to allow their partner to stay with them. Check out this article from Find A Master to learn more about how postgraduate student halls differs from undergraduate ones.

Having your family with you in your student accommodation may primarily be designed for postgraduate students, but it isn’t particularly exclusive to them. Later on in this article, we’ll look more at the types of accommodation that may be available if staying with your family and who is eligible for this.

Are there alcohol-free halls at university?

When thinking of university student life, the stereotypical picture of constant partying and heavy drinking often comes to mind. Now, this trope isn’t entirely accurate and most certainly doesn’t represent the thousands of university students in the UK. However, there is some truth to it.

If you don’t drink and don’t want to be around people when they are or have been drinking, this might make you feel uncomfortable and you might be wondering if there is an option for you to be able to avoid this.

 In the UK, some universities do offer alcohol-free accommodation. In these student halls, the consumption of alcohol is not permitted on the premises, ensuring that they stay alcohol-free.

While it will depend on the university, some might even move students, who have drunk alcohol on the premises, to a different hall of residence. This is the case for the University of St Andrews, you can learn more about their policies on their website, here.

Alcohol-free accommodation is however very limited. Not all universities offer it and even the ones that do won’t typically be able to cater to the demand for it. For example, in 2017, over 400 students applied for alcohol-free accommodation at the University of St Andrews, but they only offer 132 rooms.

Alcohol-free halls of residence also come with their own benefits and drawbacks, which you can see in the following table.

Pros Cons
Surrounded by others who don’t drink. May feel isolated or judged in a specific hall of residence.
Can arrange non-drinking activities with flatmates. Limited availability.

You can learn more about these pros and cons by checking out this article by the BBC, which will explain more about alcohol-free student halls and give students’ opinions on them.

Are there single sex halls at university?

There may be a variety of different reasons why you want to stay in a student hall of residence that only has other students that are the same gender as you. Regardless of whether this is for religious, cultural or other personal reasons, you might be wondering if this is even an option at university in the UK.

In the UK, it is most definitely possible to stay in a single-sex student accommodation. However, similarly to alcohol-free halls, the availability is limited and it will depend on your university if they even offer this.

To get more detailed information about how these types of halls of residence work, it would be best to look at a specific university’s website. However, to get you started, you can have a look at this page on the University of Reading’s website and this page on the University of Bristol’s website for more on each of their policies on single-sex accommodation.

What is shared housing for students UK?

Shared housing is where you privately rent out a house or flat. This will typically be done with other students, although you might also be able to do it by yourself and wither be placed with other students or to get a studio flat or small flat.

Once again, you will generally be sharing facilities, like the kitchen, bathroom and maybe even a washing machine with other students. However, the exact facilities that you get will generally be dependent on the accommodation that you’re renting.

For undergraduate students, this type of accommodation will typically be more for 2nd and 3rd year students as 1st year students will typically be able to get a place in student halls at the university. Other than that, the experience is quite likely to be generally similar between undergraduates and postgraduates as private accommodation is more varied as a whole.

For both types of students, there will be certain benefits and drawbacks that you can see in the following table.

Pros Cons
Can choose your roommates. May be more expensive.
More variety of options. Bills need to be paid separately.
More freedom and can make your own rules. Have to pay for own wi-fi.
Can choose the location. No cleaners but still have to deal with others’ mess.

You can learn more about this by checking out this page on the UCAS website.

What are the types of rooms in student accommodation UK?

Now that we’ve looked at the different types of accommodation, we can further look into how student accommodation can differ by looking at the different types of room. These types will mainly apply to student halls, both university-managed and privates ones, and flats, whether particularly for students or not.

There are several different types of rooms that students can stay in whilst at university, such as:

  • Individual rooms – These are the most common type of room for student accommodation in the UK. In this type, the student will have their own individual room, whether this is in a hall of residence, a flat or even a student house. Some individual rooms will come with ensuite bathrooms or some may come with a wash basin in the room.
  • Shared rooms – These aren’t a very common type of room for student accommodation in the UK. In this type, 2 students will be sharing one room as well as sharing a flat with more students.
  • Studio flats – This type of accommodation is more common for postgraduate students and will typically be offered privately. This is where the student has their own self-contained flat with the kitchen, bedroom and ensuite all in one.

Look at the following table to see the pros and cons of each type of room.

  Pros Cons
Individual Lots of options to choose from. Shared accommodation so may have to deal with others’ mess.
Shared Cheaper. Less privacy.
Studio More privacy and freedom. More expensive.

You can check out this guide by the British Council to learn more about these types of room for student accommodation.

Can you live at home whilst at university in the UK?

In this article, we’ve already looked at all different kinds of student accommodations that you can stay in during your time at university. However, one of the most overlooked types of accommodations for students is actually staying at home.

Students can choose to live at home whilst studying at university rather than renting either university-managed or private accommodation. While it is only really an option if you are studying in the same town/ city as where you live or if it is close enough to travel to frequently, it could be a great option. Although, it too can have some drawbacks.

Look at the following table to see the pros and cons of living at home whilst at university.

Pros Cons
Cheaper than renting university or private accommodation (and maybe even free). Transport may be expensive.
Can stay close to your friends and family. Less independence.
Already familiar with the area. Less freedom.
Can stay with your pets if you have any. Can feel like you’re missing out on the university experience.

You can learn more about living at home whilst at university and its pros and cons in this Think Student article.

Can you live with your family in student accommodation?

If you have children and/or a partner that you live with, you might be wondering if you would be able to take them with you and if you can, how would this even work? Well, look no further as in this section that will all be explained.

First of all, no you won’t be able to live with your partner or child in halls of residence. However, it should be alright if they’re only visiting you. You can learn more about this by checking out this Think Student article.

In order to live with your family while in student accommodation, you’ll need to apply to a family accommodation. These are offered by both universities and private student accommodations.

In these family accommodations, your bills won’t be included anymore, so that you end up paying the right amount of council tax, even considering the amount your partner or child owes.

In family accommodation, students will typically either get a studio flat or an apartment between 1 and 4 bedrooms.  However, once again, the availability of these is limited and will depend on the university.

Look at the following list to see the pros and cons of living with your family in family-specific student accommodation.

Pros Cons
Less stressful than finding non- student accommodation. Need to sort out bills separately.
Can come with a range of other facilities. Wi-fi may not be included.

You can learn more about family-specific student accommodation by checking out this page and this page from Queen Mary University of London and from University of York respectively. Also, check out this article from Unipool to learn more about the family accommodations they offer.

How to choose student accommodation at university

In this article, we’ve looked at a range of different options that you have when choosing your student accommodation at university. However, the question still remains: how do you know which one is best for you?

First, you should consider looking at the pros and cons introduced in this article to get a better feel of which types of accommodation would be a good fit for you. Then you need to zone more specifically in on your university and the town/city that it is in to see what is actually available there.

When narrowing down your list, you should consider the following 5 important factors.

  • The quality of the housing – When viewing a property, you should check that everything is in good shape from insulation to even no cracking paint.
  • The cost and your budget – You need to make sure that you can afford the accommodation you choose.
  • The distance from campus – You need to make sure that you are close enough to campus that you can travel easily between their and your accommodation.
  • The local area – It’s important that you can get things that you need from local shops and the local area can also be important in your social life as well.
  • The landlord – You should make sure that the landlord is friendly and willing to answer any questions before settling for a property. This can help to avoid issues later on.

You can learn more about all this by checking out this Think Student article.

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