Planning your housing

Last modified: 14 February 2018

University housing, some other long-term housing, and most temporary housing can be arranged in advance, before you travel to the UK. Some other long-term housing can only be arranged after you come to the UK.

To plan your housing, make sure you understand your options and your deadlines, and 

  • what you want
  • what you need
  • what you can afford
  • what you will compromise on


Student housing

Last modified: 12 February 2018

Student housing

Housing arranged by your college or university is normally in large halls of residence (normally just called “halls”). It is common for the halls to be owned and managed not by the university but by a commercial provider who has allocated some (or all) of the rooms to your university for student housing. 

Some more traditional university halls are “catered halls” which provide meals, although nowadays most halls of residence do not provide meals. Catered halls can help budget your money, but the food may be very different from the food you are used to at home.

Many larger cities have private halls or student villages which are not allocated to specific universities. Students can book directly with the company that manages the housing.  In many ways they are very similar to university-managed halls, but often with a higher level of services, furnishings and facilities, and a more expensive rent. Your university can advise you if there are any private halls in your city, but you will be signing a contract with a private company, not with your university.

Some institutions also own or manage some smaller blocks of flats (apartments) or smaller houses.

Most student housing is divided into shared flats (apartments) where a group of students (typically 5 or 6) share a kitchen/social space, in which they can prepare their own meals. Each student normally has a study bedroom for their own use. 

Older-style university halls have rooms off a continuous corridor with communal space provided for all residents, normally on the ground floor.  They may offer shared (normally twin) rooms, but these are no longer common except in cities where housing is expensive (for example, London and Edinburgh) and they offer a considerable cost saving.

Study bedrooms normally have an en suite bathroom, or in older-style halls you may use a shared bathroom. In both cases, the bathroom will have a toilet, wash basins and a shower, but it may not have a bath tub.

Student housing is usually mixed, with male and female students sharing the building or flat, but having their own private study bedroom.  Some universities may have a limited supply of single-sex housing options.

Most student housing provides an internet connection, either through the university server or with each student having their own individual contract with a commercial provider.  Utility costs (energy and water) are normally included in the rent and the contract will state this.

How to apply

Almost always you must apply before you come to the UK. If you are offered a place on a course, you will usually be asked if you would like your institution to provide housing or to help you find privately rented housing.  Make sure that you follow the application procedures and, in particular, that you meet the application deadlines. 

Read carefully the institution’s housing information and links to websites that they send you. Make sure you are clear about what you want, and that you understand what options are available.  Institution housing is the first choice for most students who are new to the UK, for many reasons:

  • positive perceptions of the institution and confidence in their reliability and trustworthiness and in the quality and value for money of their housing
  • being at the heart of the institution
  • feeling safer and more secure
  • feeling better connected and having more social opportunities
  • having easier access to the institution’s facilities and services
  • the convenience and confidence of booking before you travel to the UK.

These factors may or may not be true about your institution’s housing, but many new students feel that these things are important for them. However, think about what is right for you and make your decision on this basis.

Differences between student housing and other private housing

Even if your first instinct is to choose student housing, do look at all your options before making a commitment.  Living in private housing can be rewarding and give you a real sense of life in the UK, and it is highly likely that any contract you sign for university housing will be for the full academic year with limited opportunity for changing your mind.

This is a summary of the differences between student housing and living in a shared house or flat in the private sector. Costs are based on figures provided by the International Student Calculator.

Student housing
(based on a single room in a shared flat of 4/5)

Shared house or flat
(based on a single room in a shared house of 4/5)


May look more expensive but is likely to include some or all utility bills and possibly some other services

May look cheaper but is likely not to include some or all utility bills

Gas, water, electricity

Nearly always included (96%)

£10.50 per person, per week (approx)


Usually included (82%, 50% include Wi-Fi)

£1.15 per person, per week (approx)

Payment methods

Flexible - often a number of ways to pay

Often negotiable (eg monthly or quarterly payment terms on request)

Insurance (basic cover)

Usually included (80%)

£2 per person, per week (approx)

Contract length

Standard contract until June or September

Standard contract until June or September

Opportunity to move

May be possible to move to other managed housing if there are vacancies

Generally not possible to change accommodation (unless you find a replacement)

Pastoral Care

May have wardens or a reception desk

Usually no pastoral care


May be possible to choose the people you share with

Possible to choose housemates


Often there is a service to remove rubbish and clean communal areas

Usually no cleaning service provided

Waste disposal

Often there is a service to remove rubbish and clean communal areas.
Bins will be provided on site, normally in a central location

Your rubbish will be collected either weekly or fortnightly by the local authority.  Ask your landlord for details

Accessibility of landlord

Usually management office on site. University housing will have a Housing Office on campus



Usually a security presence and regular security patrols, sometimes 24-hrs a day

Generally not available

Repairs and maintenance

There may be a formal commitment to getting repairs and maintenance done within specified timescales

Varies, but if your landlord is part of a recognised accreditation scheme it is likely they will be working to agreed timescales

Other housing

Last modified: 12 February 2018

Not all students live in student housing. There are other options.


Sharing a house or flat


Homestay (lodger)


Booking your housing

Last modified: 13 February 2018

You can book university housing and other purpose-built student housing before you come to the UK. 

For other long-term housing, it is not usually a good idea to arrange it before you arrive in the UK. There are, however, some exceptions. It can be frustrating, arriving with uncertainty about your longer-term housing arrangements. However, there are things you can do to help prepare:

  • read the guidance from your institution about housing options for international students
  • check the processes for house-hunting and what support you can get from your institution, your students’ union and any other local agencies. They may have lists of local housing available for rent. They may also have inspected the housing to check that it is suitable. The student office at your country’s Embassy or High Commission in the UK may also be able to give you information about housing
  • check online to get an early idea of what is available and the quality and cost of housing in your host town or city
  • use social networks to connect with other students who are starting at your institution at the same time, and who will be looking for housing.  This could give you a head-start in making new friends; it could also be a way of finding housemates with shared interests

If your institution does not have temporary housing, your other options are hotels and guest houses. Guest houses are like hotels but instead of having a restaurant, they may have a dining room where you have no choice about the meals served. Living in a hotel for a long period of time will be expensive. However, hotels and guest houses provide useful temporary housing which you can book before you travel to the UK.  Hostels (see above) also offer temporary housing.

After you arrived at your pre-booked temporary housing, start your search for longer-term housing early with help from your institution. Internet searches, housing agencies, local newspapers and advertisements in shop windows or on a institution notice board are useful when you are looking for somewhere to live.

Check if there is any type of accreditation scheme in operation.

Fake landlords operate in the private student housing market, preying on vulnerable (often international) students, for example by pretending to offer housing online, for example, through Facebook or Gumtree. Victims are asked to pay for a deposit for a house or flat that does not exist. The October 2015 BBC News report "Overseas students targeted by fake landlords" includes some advice from the police on avoiding such fraudulent schemes.

Agencies sometimes charge a fee but, by law, they cannot charge you just for registering with them and you should not pay for details of places they have to let.

Accreditation schemes

Last modified: 14 February 2018

Check that a property, landlord or institution is part of a reputable accreditation scheme. Landlords in scheme are commited to offering housing and services which meet specific professional standards.  Typically, these are standards for how the contract is written, how properties are marketed and managed, how quickly any repairs are done, health and safety, how deposits and any disputes are handled.

Under accreditation schemes members’ properties are checked to ensure they meet these standards. If they do not, they can be removed from the scheme. If you move into housing which is part of an accreditation scheme, you know that the housing will be of an acceptable standard and that you will receive a fair and professional service. All schemes have a robust complaints procedure that you can use if there are any problems.

The National Codes are schemes for larger-scale student developments. There is one scheme for properties managed and controlled by education institutions,and another for privately rented properties.

Bringing a family

Last modified: 14 February 2018

Few institutions provide housing for families.  When they do, there is often high demand and short supply, both for long-term and short-term temporary housing.

Check before you arrive whether and how your institution can help you in your search for suitable housing. It takes several weeks for newly-arrived students to find suitable family housing.

It may be easier for you to initially come to the UK alone, and stay in temporary, single housing while you look for a family home. Once you have found longer-term housing for yourself and your family, your family can travel to the UK.

If you do all travel to the UK together, make sure you have enough money to cover the high costs of temporary family housing. Your institution can advise what this may be. 

Requirements for students with families will vary, but, as a guide, these are the kinds of factors which students with families attach importance to when looking for suitable housing, compared to single students:

  • housing made safe for children
  • a location close to healthcare services, childcare provision, schools, parks/play areas, bus routes, supermarkets, car parking, parent and toddler groups, ante-natal classes and other forms of local infrastructure that can support family life and reduce the risk of isolation for non-studying parents
  • a quieter location, removed from undergraduate residences
  • a stronger emphasis on the quantity and quality of social space
  • a stronger emphasis on the quality of study space
  • longer-term housing contracts
  • affordability

Disabled students

Last modified: 14 February 2018

UK institutions are legally required not to discriminate against disabled students, and not to treat them less favourably than other students. Institutions are also required to make adjustments to services for disabled students so that they are not disadvantaged in comparison with non-disabled students. These laws apply to international students as well as to students who are UK citizens.

Because the UK law is strong on disability rights, you should find your institution helpful in supporting you in your search for suitable housing. Some institutions have housing which is designed or adapted for students with specific disabilities. Your institution may also make changes to housing to support your particular disability. In some institutions it may even be possible to secure housing for the full duration of your course.

There may, however, be no suitable housing available at your institution and no housing which can be reasonably adjusted to support your needs. In this case, it is important you review the options carefully and seek your institution’s support in helping you find housing in the private sector which is suitable for you.

The most important thing is to let your institution know as early as possible that you have a disability which means you have particular housing needs. Although you might declare this as part of your application for a place on a course, it is also a good idea to contact the institution’s housing service and disability officer to raise and discuss the matter directly with them. In this way you are likely to receive the best service that your institution can offer you. If you do not raise it early, you may be disappointed and struggle to find anything appropriate.

International students with a disability do not have access to funding from UK authorities to support their living costs, although funding may be available from your institution to assist with direct study-related costs.

What to bring

Last modified: 14 February 2018

In most housing, you will need to clean your own room and do your own laundry. Some student housing may provide a cleaner for the communal areas, or you can employ a local cleaner.

Housing is normally fully furnished, but you may need to provide your own bedding and towels. In some institution housing you can pre-order a bedding pack if you need one.