How comfortable you are with your living conditions can make all the difference to how well you do in your studies and how much you enjoy yourself socially. If you are coming to study in the UK from abroad, finding a place to stay before you come to the country will make your arrival easier.
You should start arranging your accommodation as soon as you have accepted a place on a course. Staying in temporary accommodation initially is all very well, but you may miss out on the best student places and struggle to make friends.
Most universities and colleges will send you an accommodation information pack before you arrive. It will not only provide information on, and application forms for, using their own accommodation but should also give some local information about reputable landlords and letting agents.
You might also contact your country’s embassy or high commission in the UK and talk to their student officer. They should be able to give you some advice.
If you are already in the UK and looking for somewhere to live there are many letting agents to talk to, although they will charge a fee. You can check out websites such as iStudentAccommodation.com, which offer a search function for student property across the UK. It’s also worth looking out for adverts in local newspapers, on notice boards and in shop windows.
Prices vary greatly for the types of accommodation available and where they are in the UK, but you should be expecting to pay at least £300 per month.
Student accommodation comes in two main types:
- university/college-owned accommodation
- privately owned accommodation.
Whatever your choice, you’ll find that UK institutions have an international students’ officer who will be able to help you find accommodation. Many institutions can guarantee accommodation for you in your first year of study.
University/college-owned accommodation can either be in halls of residence or in offsite houses and flats.
Halls of residence
This is the most common type of residence. Halls are large buildings that house many students. They are often split into corridors of six to eight rooms, which are usually single, but the cheaper option involves sharing with another student.
Most of the newer halls contain rooms that have their own shower and toilet, called ‘en-suite’. If not, then the corridor will share bathroom facilities and possibly a kitchen. There is always a telephone nearby whether in the building, on the floor, in the corridor or, in some of the newer halls, in each room.
Many halls are catered, providing morning and evening meals. This can be good value, although meals are sometimes quite basic and may be different to what you are used to in your home country. The other option is self-catering where you cook your meals yourself in a shared kitchen. Many halls also provide a cleaning and laundry service.
Being in halls is usually the best option for your first year. You will be on campus and therefore close to your studies, and it is easier to become involved with the social life that goes on there.
Most universities guarantee a place in halls to first-year international students to make your arrival and integration as easy as possible, but you may have to move off campus after your first year.
University flats or houses
These are very much like self-catering halls of residence, but are usually off-campus and further away from your studies. You do your own cooking, cleaning and laundry, pay the bills for rent, heating and lighting. They are best for when you have met some friends and are happy to live together, maybe in your second year, and allow you more freedom.
The private accommodation sector offers students a number of options:
Privately owned student residences
Luxury, purpose-built student residences are becoming increasingly common in student cities across the UK. These blocks offer sleek and stylish en-suite rooms and studios with modern furniture and stylish colours, along with a number of communal areas and facilities. Bills, TV and Wi-Fi are usually included in the cost, and there is often a dedicated on-site management team.
You can search for a place at one of the many private student residences on offer in the UK at iStudentAccommodation.com.
Usually owned by a charitable organisation and much like halls of residence, hostels are either catered or self-catering. Waiting lists can be long, however, so be sure to apply early.
This involves renting a room in a family home. The landlord/lady will live there, and you will probably have to share the bathroom and kitchen. Some will treat you like a member of the family, cook your meals, and do your laundry for you. Others will expect you to do so yourself.
You are unlikely to have much freedom in lodgings, as you will have to obey family rules and habits, such as being quiet in the evening and at night and keeping your room and the rest of the house clean. Lodgings can, however, be very good for giving you support and local knowledge though.
A house can be divided up into single rooms called bedsits. You share the bathroom and kitchen and have to do your own laundry and cleaning. As the people in each bedsit have no connection to each other it can be quite lonely, but you do have a lot more privacy than in lodgings.
Flats and houses
These are like university/college-owned flats and houses, but owned by a private landlord (either a single person or a company). These provide you with a lot of freedom, but do require you to be organised in paying bills on time.
Some private landlords can treat their student tenants badly by not fixing things and only providing old furniture. Most are good however but always try and rent from one recommended by the university/college. Talk to the housing or welfare officer and they can give you a list.
Image credit: Fabio Formaggio