Planning your housing

Last modified: 10 September 2017

When you are planning your housing

  • be clear what the options are
  • be clear what you want, what you need, what you can afford and what you would be prepared to compromise on
  • secure your housing in good time and get the deal confirmed

Housing that is owned or allocated by your university can be organised in advance, before you travel to the UK. 

With other types of housing you will need to arrange some temporary housing before you travel (which may be available through your university), and then arrange the longer-term housing after you have arrived.

Housing provided by your institution

Last modified: 13 March 2017

Halls of residence and other options

Housing arranged by your college or university is normally in large halls of residence, although some institutions also own or manage some smaller blocks of flats (apartments) or smaller houses.

Halls of residence (normally just called “halls”) are usually purpose-built, occupied by a large number of students.  It is common for the halls to be owned and managed by a commercial provider who has allocated some (or all) of the rooms to your university for student housing.

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

Most halls are divided into shared flats (apartments), while older-style halls can also consist of a large building with many rooms off a continuous corridor with communal space provided for all residents, normally on the ground floor.  Where halls are divided into flats, a group of students (typically 5 or 6) share a kitchen/social space, in which they can prepare and eat their own meals from food which they buy themselves. Each student normally has a study bedroom for their own use. Some universities also 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.

Most halls rooms may have en suite bathrooms, with a shower and toilet directly attached to a study bedroom for your personal use.  Students allocated to rooms without en suite facilities have the use of a shared bathroom, incorporating toilets, wash basins and a bath/shower.

Halls of residence, and flats within them, are usually mixed, with male and female students sharing the building or flat, but having their own private study bedroom.  Some universities have a limited supply of single-sex housing options.

Most halls provide 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

Usually, 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 stated 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 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 university housing and private housing


Even if your first instinct is to choose university 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.

A summary of the differences between institutional halls of residence and living in a shared house in the private sector. Costs are based on figures provided by the International Student Calculator.

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

Private housing
(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

Often possible to move to other university accommodation if vacancies are available

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

Pastoral Care

Generally wardens/residential officers available

Usually no pastoral care


Generally not possible to choose flatmates

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 (except in 'smaller residences') and Accommodation 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

Privately rented housing

Last modified: 08 June 2017

If your institution does not offer housing, or if you want to look at alternatives, there are a range of options.


Sharing a house or flat (apartment)

In the UK, students often choose to share a house or flat with other students, living off-campus or separate from the halls of residence.
Read more


A studio will normally include sleeping, kitchen and bathroom facilities. 
Read more

Homestay (lodger)

To be a lodger means live in part of a property that is also lived in by the owner, who may have a family. You are expected to share the facilities along with the other residents
Read more


Hostels are especially common in London, and often owned by a charitable organisation. Some hostels provide housing for single students and for student couples.
Read more

Booking private housing

Last modified: 13 March 2017

It is generally not a good idea to enter into a contract for longer-term housing (other than halls of residence) before you arrive in the UK. There are, however, some exceptions. For example some housing providers (such as Unipol Student Homes in Leeds) have an online booking system offering access to their portfolio of accredited properties. Contact the housing office at your institution to check whether they work with any such organisations. If not, you cannot look at the housing, and you therefore cannot get a sense of whether the landlord is trustworthy or not. Nor can get a full and proper sense of what is available generally in the private sector.

It can be frustrating, arriving with uncertainty about your longer-term housing arrangements. However, there are things you can do to help prepare:

  • read through what your institution has to say about private housing in your host town or city
  • ascertain what are the processes for house-hunting and the level of support provided by 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
  • through social networking sites try to connect with other students who are starting at your institution at the same time, and who will be looking for private sector 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. Make full use of whatever house-hunting support your institution offers. 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.

Frausters operate in the private student housing market, preying on vulnerable (often international) students, for example by presenting themselves as legitimate providers online (for example, through websites such as Facebook or Gumtree) and getting their victims to hand over money for a deposit on a non-existent property. 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: 13 March 2017

It is important to check whether a property, landlord or institution is part of a reputable accreditation scheme. In joining an accreditation scheme a landlord commits themselves to offering housing and related management services which meet specific professional standards.  Typically, these standards relate to the way the contract is written, how properties are marketed, how properties are managed, how quickly any repairs are done, health and safety, how deposits are handled and how any disputes are handled.

Under accreditation schemes members’ properties are checked from time to time to ensure they meet these standards. If they do not, they risk being removed from the scheme. If you move into housing which is part of an accreditation scheme, you can feel assured that your housing will be of an acceptable standard and that you will receive a fair and professional service. An important element of all of these schemes is a robust complaints procedure that you can use if any problems arise.

The National Codes are schemes for larger-scale student developments, one for properties managed and controlled by education institutions; and another for properties in the commercial sector.

Students with a family

Last modified: 13 March 2017

Check early if your institution provides:

  • housing suitable for families
  • short-stay housing for families or for international students individually
  • house-hunting support for students with families or international students more generally.

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.

If you intend to bring any dependants with you while you study in the UK, you should either:

  • come to the UK alone first, 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; or
  • if you must arrive with your dependants, bring enough money to cover the high costs of temporary family housing – check with your institution what the minimum needed per night is, for example, for a family of four.

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:

  • 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: 13 March 2017

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.

You should also be aware that 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: 13 March 2017

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

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.