University Halls and Houses
Most universities provide places for first-year students in their own accommodation like halls of residence.
- Boundaries are becoming blurred with universities entering into partnerships with private sector organisations to build and manage student complexes.
- The growing importance of these initiatives is highlighted by the fact that their number of student bed spaces has more than doubled in the last few years.
- As well as providing halls specifically for individual universities, UNITE, the biggest provider, and others offer students secure and flexible accommodation of their own with a wide range of payment options.
- This style of living can be somewhat more expensive but is purpose-built and of high quality.
- You might expect as standard for your room to be ensuite with high-speed internet access, satellite TV and a phone line, and for your shared kitchen to have all mod cons.
- Nonetheless, we still have a long way to go to match some American universities where the more exotic offerings include in-room movies, bubble-jet tubs and personal trainers. One even invites parents to submit their offspring's favourite recipes to incorporate in their gourmet menus!
Many students view ensuite accommodation as essential before they arrive at university.
- In reality, it can be an expensive luxury and sharing with others (most universities offer single sex flats if required) is a good way to make friends on the way to the bathroom or in the queue for the showers!
All university owned accommodation, and many private sector halls are covered by one of three accreditation schemes.
- These cover essential issues like how the hall is managed, health and safety and security.
- You can find information about the schemes and check your accommodation is a member by checking the UUK or ANUK/Unipol schemes websites.
We do not recommend first year students choose private halls of residence if university halls are available unless there is a specific agreement on support, and other first years are likely to be there too.
- The new private halls of residence are ideal for students in year 2–5, etc and for students in year 1 who have not secured a place in university residences due to late applications, clearing etc.
University-owned residences continue to be upgraded, often with one eye on the conference business in vacations, and new rooms coming on stream might well be similarly ensuite with all mod cons.
- Paradoxically, at a time when there is much talk about student hardship, even poverty, these more expensive rooms are often in greatest demand. Perhaps students hope to balance the books by saving on food costs.
- Certainly, an increasing number are looking for the more independent lifestyle offered by self-catering.
- The universities and other providers have responded to this shift in demand by providing much more flexible eating arrangements rather than the traditional full-board package of accommodation and fifteen or so meals a week.
- Many universities offer pay-as-you-eat as well as wholly catered and self-catering facilities in their residences.
Halls can be mixed or, more rarely, single sex and might house up to 800 students.
- They are great places to make friends and be part of the social scene.
- They are also probably best for support, should you need it in those first few weeks and months away from family and friends.
- They can also be first-year student ghettos and are often rowdy well into the beginning of the academic year.
In many universities you will be guaranteed accommodation if you firmly accept their offer by a given date in the summer, but not necessarily if you come through Clearing.
- Some private halls might still have places available at Clearing time.
- You will generally be expected – and, most probably, will want – to move out to other accommodation at the end of your first year.
- There are exceptions, particularly in the collegiate universities, and it is quite common at Oxford or Cambridge to live in your college for a further year or two.
You will no doubt be asked to sign an agreement with the university and the average length of the contract is 40 weeks, including the Christmas and Easter vacations.
- With shorter term-time-only contracts you will be required to move out in the vacations, but there may be storage space to leave your belongings.
- If not, check if the university has a secure storage facility with a local company.
- Special arrangements are often made to enable international students to remain in residence in the short vacations. They might also experience life within a UK family home over a weekend or at Christmas under the auspices of HOST UK and similar organisations.
Please note that some universities (and most private halls such as UNITE) charge first year students for contracts of more than 40 weeks: 45–52 weeks in some cases.
- When comparing prices look at the total cost of the contract, not the weekly comparison.
- In most cases ensuite rooms are £30–40 per week more expensive than shared bathroom accommodation – make sure you can afford it or whether you don't actually mind sharing bathrooms with 4–10 other students (usually with washbasins in your room) and save the £1,500 for other luxuries!
If you possibly can, take full advantage of Open Days to see the accommodation for yourself.
- UCAS publishes an annual guide to Open Days, Taster Courses and its own Education Conventions.
- Opting for university accommodation or the bigger private providers often gives the distinct advantage that it can be arranged at a distance, even on-line, whereas much of the private housing requires you to be on the spot to secure it.
- The university cannot sign a tenancy agreement on your behalf.
- The University Accommodation or Housing Office will have literature describing the facilities in detail and many have excellent websites containing invaluable information on student housing provided by both the university and the private sector.
Whilst the largest number of first-year students live in Halls, some prefer smaller, self-catering properties owned or managed by the university.
- This type of accommodation usually has a shared kitchen, toilet, bathroom and possibly a lounge area, which offer a more independent lifestyle.
- You may find that you have to pay bills seperately to the rent in this type of accommodation.
- University properties are often in or near the campus itself and so travel costs to and from the university are minimal.
- As a general rule, the older universities tend to have much more housing stock, but the scene is constantly changing with high rise cranes a regular feature of the university skyline.
If you like league tables and want to compare rents for university accommodation then take a look at the NUS/Unipol Survey, the latest of which covers 2009–10.
- It contains a wealth of information on accommodation costs, including what's included, deposits, booking fees and length of let.
Next page: Private Sector Accommodation