Student life: Student accommodation


Going into higher education is a really exciting time and can be a great way to gain more independence by moving away from home, whether that’s ten minutes away from where you currently live with your family or thousands of miles away because you’re an international student.

For lots of students it’s their first time being responsible for making their own meals, washing their own clothes and managing the money required to pay for those things! 


Halls of residence

One way students gain their independence is by moving into halls of residence. These are blocks of housing for students provided by most universities and some colleges. Often these halls will be blocks of accommodation dotted around a university campus or in the surrounding neighbourhoods. Halls of residence are open to all students, whether their home town is local to the university or hundreds, sometimes thousands of miles away. However, it is important to note that universities will often give priority to students who’ve had to move away from their home town or family home to study.

Halls of residence aren’t free – you do have to pay rent. However, ‘halls’ (as they’re often called) are reserved for students only, and universities intend to support those living there by providing them with a bedroom that includes a desk to work at, and a living space for socialising with other students (also known as common rooms). Some have gyms, sports pitches, cafes and computer rooms as well as security and cleaning staff. Most halls of residences run social and sport activities for students who live there, and will hold special welcome events when students first arrive to help them get to know the other students they are living with. It’s pretty likely that this description is making you think of college dorms you might have seen in American TV shows – it’s a bit like that, but in the UK, most students have their own bedroom and don’t have to share with anyone else!

Most people only live in halls of residences for the first year of their degree as it helps them make new friends and get used to living away from their family in a safe, university supported place. There will often be university staff who help with cleaning shared / common areas used by lots of students, but students have to help keep those shared areas clean, and they must clean their own bedrooms.

After first year, students tend to rent houses, flats, or just rooms, from private landlords. They might do this with friends they met in halls, on their course or through other student life activities. We’ll talk more about that later!

So what are university halls of residence like? Well there are lots of different types of university accommodation so let’s run through the types of ‘halls’ universities provide.

Self-catered or catered:

  • self-catered – this means you can choose to live somewhere with a shared kitchen with ovens, fridges, freezers and kettles provided so that you can buy your own food and cook your own meals. This type of accommodation tends to be cheaper because you aren’t paying up front for meals to be provided by the university.
  • catered – catered halls provide you with your main meals served from their canteen. Breakfast and main evening meals are served at fixed times of the day, with a different menu being provided each day including meal options for vegetarians, vegans and people with allergies. As the university is providing you with meals, you’ll be expected to pay a higher rent to cover this.

Small flats or large ‘houses’:

  • small flats – these flats normally have just three or four students living in them, with each student having their own room, and a shared kitchen/living room. These spaces suit students who don’t want to live with lots of people and are normally self-catered.
  • large ‘houses’ – these are not real houses; it’s a name that universities give to a big cluster of rooms along a corridor or floor of a building. These ‘houses’ can have up to 20 students living in them. Calling them ‘houses’ creates a sense of community amongst those students, and each ‘house’ of students will likely have one really big living room/common room for them to share, as well as access to a kitchen (although in catered accommodation the kitchen will have limited cooking facilities). These spaces suit students who like the idea of living and socialising with lots of people.

Shared bathroom or en-suite:

  • shared bathroom – this means you’ll have to share a bathroom (toilets and showers) with some other students. If you’re living in a halls ‘house’ with lots of people, universities will provide lots of shower cubicles and toilets for the ‘house’ to use, and university staff will help you keep them clean. Some bedrooms have sinks so students don’t have to leave their room every time they want to brush their teeth or wash their hands. 
  • en-suite – en-suite rooms provide students with their own personal shower and toilet in a separate small room in the corner of their main bedroom. Some students prefer to have their own shower and toilet, rather than sharing, though it’s important to know that en-suite halls of residence tend to be more expensive to rent, and you have to clean your own bathroom.

If you decide to live in university halls, there are other decisions you’ll need to make before you apply for a room, for example:

  • do you want to live near the university?
  • do you want the ‘halls’ to have its own gym and sports facilities?
  • do you want to live in an area where lots of students live? 
  • do you need access to computing equipment?

Find out more about the University of Manchester’s student accommodation by watching the video below:

Privately rented accommodation

Privately rented accommodation is when you rent a room, flat or house from a private home owner or company that owns lots of properties. The people who own these places are called landlords. Lots of landlords specialise in providing student-friendly accommodation, located in areas where lots of students live.

Most students will move into private accommodation after their first year, and they’ll find it a bit different to life in ‘halls’. They may have to start paying bills for things that you don’t have to pay for in halls, like water, electricity, gas, TV licences, etc. If a student lives in private accommodation, they are also responsible for cleaning the entire house or flat, and will have to pay some extra money (a deposit) to the landlord when they start renting to cover the cost of breaking things. Don’t worry though- this will be returned to them once they move out, as long as everything remains unbroken. 

A lot universities want to make sure that their students rent houses or flats that are safe and well-priced, so they have lists or rooms, flats and houses to rent that they feel are suitable for students.

Living in private accommodation means most student learn how to manage their money even better than they did in first year.


How do I pay for halls or private accommodation

As we said earlier, if you move into ‘halls’ or privately rented accommodation you’ll have to pay rent. Some of you may also do this if you choose to stay living with your families in order to help them cover the costs of having you at home with them.

When you go into higher education, you can get help from the government for living costs, like rent, through what’s called a ‘maintenance loan’.

You’ll need to pay this loan back, but not until you have a job, and are earning over £27,295 a year, and even then you pay it back in small chunks straight from the pay you get for doing your job each month.

There’s a lot more to student money (also known as student finance) and we’ll talk to you more about that in Year 10, but for now you can find out more by clicking here to read the student finance section of our Jargon Buster

We’ve talked a lot in the last few sections about enjoying and taking part in student life outside of studying, but what about life after your degree and getting a job? Click on the box below to move onto our next section – student life: careers and volunteering.

Student life: Careers and volunteering

An important service that helps you find a career and take part in volunteering, and preparing yourself for life after your degree.

Read more

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