Types of accommodation
Halls of residence
Halls of residence (also known as ‘student halls’ or just ‘halls’) are the most common type of accommodation for first year students. Most universities actually guarantee first-year international students a place in halls to make their arrival and integration as easy as possible. The set-up is a bit like a hotel or hostel: halls are large buildings with six to eight private rooms on each floor. In some halls you can shared bathroom facilities, but in others you can have an en-suite (these are typically more expensive). Most student halls also have a shared laundry room, a manned security office and a weekly room cleaning service.
You can choose between catered and self-catered halls. In catered halls you get breakfast and evening meals provided. This can be very good-value for money and you don’t have to worry about cooking. In self-catered halls, no food is provided so you have to cook all your meals in a shared kitchen. Self-catered halls are cheaper than catered halls but what you save in rent, you will spend on food, so overall the price is quite similar.
Some halls let you keep your room for the entire academic year, but in others you have to move out during the university holidays (Christmas, Easter) as the halls are used as accommodation for business events and conferences held at the university. In this case, your annual rent will be a bit cheaper as you don’t pay during the holidays, but it can be a pain to move all of your stuff and you may have to pay for a storage facility.
Halls of residence are usually owned by the university but more and more private halls are being built to cope with the increasing number of students going to university in the UK.
Flats and houses
After making friends in the first year, most students choose to live in a shared house or flat for the rest of their studies. These are just normal houses/flats that are rented to students. They are usually owned by a private landlord/landlady and not by the university.
There are loads of websites where houses and flats for students are advertised; Studentpad, Rightmove, Zoopla. You can also check out the UK Housing section on Justlanded.com. If you don’t fancy the hassle of searching for accommodation, you can go through a rental agency or an estate agent, but they will charge you a fee. Most universities have a list of recommended private landlords/landladies, rental agencies and estate agents that students have used and rented from in the past.
This involves renting a room in a family home. The landlord/landlady and their family will live there and you will probably have to share the bathroom and kitchen. Some families will treat you like a member of the family; cooking your meals and doing your laundry. Others will expect you to be more independent and do things for yourself.
As a lodger, you are a guest in someone’s home: you probably won’t enjoy the same freedom as in other types of accommodation and will have to adapt to the family’s routine and habits, such as being quiet at night and keeping your room clean. However, lodgings can be very good for giving you support and local knowledge.
This is very similar to a private house, expect you are not living with friends (at least at first). The house is divided into single private rooms called ‘bedsits’. You share the bathroom and kitchen and have to do your own laundry and cleaning. Typically, people in bedsits do not know each other when they move in. This means it can be quite lonely, but you do have a lot more privacy than in lodgings and you can always make friends with your fellow ‘bedsitters’.
Don’t leave arranging your accommodation to the last minute. You should research your options as soon as you have accepted your place at university.
Most universities won’t let you apply for student halls until the summer before your course starts. When the university accepts your academic application, you will be told the housing application opening date. You should know exactly what halls and what type of room (catered/self-catered/en-suite etc) you want before this date as you need to apply as soon as you can to make sure you get your first choice.
If you need some extra help to find accommodation, you can contact your university. All UK universities have an International Students Officer who will be able to help you find accommodation. You can also contact your country’s embassy in the UK and talk to their Student Officer. They should be able to give you some advice.