Ask any student about their first year student accommodation and they’ll go a little misty eyed, reminisce of the time when they cling-filmed someone’s entire room, or recount various university myths about students playing the “find the poo game.”
Dubious décor (or swanky new interiors if you’re lucky), cooking disasters and endless fire alarm drills are all part of the university accommodation experience. Long live university accommodation!
Types of university accommodation
University accommodation comes in all shapes and sizes. Most students will find themselves living in large halls of residence, either throwbacks from the 70s and 80s or something with a more modern flavour.
Some student halls might have between 300 and 600 rooms. Most of the time, you’ll be living on a corridor, or in a shared flat with six or eight rooms. Alternatively, you might be living in a ‘college’ (especially if you go to Oxford or Cambridge), or in much smaller university accommodation, such as university-owned houses (à la Fresh Meat) or small halls with only 30 or so rooms.
Most universities will also provide flats or apartments for married students, or those with children, and rooms for students with particular requirements.
Does it really matter where you live?
Yes it does. The university accommodation you choose will affect who you meet and the kind of university experience you’ll have. There’ll be other factors you’ll need to consider like distance from campus, cost and whether or not you want an en-suite bathroom.
The bigger halls of residence tend to be noisier, with more parties and you’ll be shacked up with a lot of other students. Living in smaller university accommodation is generally a quieter experience, but they can have really close-knit communities. It’s all about working out what sort of accommodation best suits your needs.
What will I get?
If you’re expecting palatial suites and cutting edge design that’ll make your friends green with envy, then think again. Facilities and rooms vary hugely from hall to hall and from university to university, but, largely, if you’re not paying your own body weight in cash, you’ll probably get quite a small, simple room with a bed, a desk, a lamp, some shelves and a chair.
You’ll either have an en-suite or a shared bathroom, a shared kitchen and a shared communal space. Some of the larger halls and colleges have their own bars. Many halls of residence have wardens or porters on the premises and student committees who are in charge of organising social events and representing the students. Some halls are catered, whilst the majority are self-catering facilities.
Be prepared for the fact that when you apply for accommodation you might not get your first choice. Above all, make sure you get your application in early, as places fill up quickly.
How much will it cost?
Again, this will vary depending on your university and the accommodation. If you go for the ‘no frills’ option, some university accommodation can be as cheap as £70 a week, whereas, particularly in London, university accommodation can cost over £200 a week. Most universities will provide both budget and premium accommodation options to suit different students’ budgets.
What if I don’t get university accommodation?
Places in halls of residence fill up fast and some universities can’t guarantee accommodation to all first year students. Some students applying through clearing often find that they are too late. So what should you do if you don’t get university accommodation?
First of all, call up the university accommodation service and see if you can get a place in any other university-managed properties. If not, they should be able to help you find private accommodation and put you in touch with other students who’ve also missed out on university accommodation.
It’s also worth remembering that some university rooms do become available halfway through the first year, as some students do drop out.
Advantages of university accommodation
- It’s a great way to meet other students who aren’t on your course.
- Rent often coincides with student loan instalments, which makes it easier to budget.
- Accommodation is run by your university, so it’s usually on campus, near campus or can be reached easily by public transport.
- It can sometimes be cheaper and more cost-effective than living privately, as you’ll only pay rent for the time you are there. Indeed, you won’t be required to commit to a 12 month contract like you would if you were renting privately.
- Utilities and internet are often included in the price, so you won’t get any nasty surprises, i.e. bills.
- Halls of residence often have their own unique atmosphere, providing a mini community within the university.
- University accommodation is the easiest type of accommodation to arrange in advance. You don’t have to flat hunt in an unfamiliar city or deal with the stress of looking for private accommodation.
- It can provide a safer, more contained community to live in.
Disadvantages of university accommodation
- Just as it can be cheaper, it can be far pricier than private accommodation. If you live near the university, you might be tempted to save money and stay at home. However, you should be aware that staying at home can be a bit of a sacrifice on the social life front.
- You don’t have any control over the people you live with.
- You may have to move out of university accommodation in the holidays, which is a bit of a pain.
- There’s a style of décor we shall affectionately call “university accommodation chic.” Think identikit rooms, shabby furniture and the distinct impression that you are one of a string of students who have already inhabited the room. Many universities have done a lot to improve their rooms, but there still are some shockers out there. Then again, there’s nothing that a few choice improvements (and a few trips to Ikea) can’t change. Posters are a student’s best friend.
- Rooms can be very small.
- If you don’t get en-suite accommodation, you’ll have to share your bathroom with other people.
- Many halls of residence will have frustrating health and safety regulations, such as restrictions on guests staying, use of candles and what you put in your room. Some are particularly anal about the use of Blu-Tack on the walls.