As well as beginning a course and meeting new people, for many students starting university means leaving home. There are two main types of student accommodation: university-owned and privately rented. Private accommodation could be specialist student halls, shared houses or flats. Read on to find out more…

University accommodation (halls)

Most universities offer accommodation to first-year students, and a few offer it to students in other years as well. You’re also more likely to be able to live in university accommodation after your first year if your circumstances require it – for example, if you have a disability that restricts where you can live or how far you can travel. Your university should let you know what they offer when your place is confirmed, but if you’re not sure what’s happening, get in touch.

University accommodation will usually be close to other university facilities. It can come in many different forms, such as:

  • A room in a block, with shared bathrooms and catering provided in a cafeteria
  • A shared flat with a kitchen
  • A room in a block with en-suite and shared kitchen
  • A twin room, which you will share with another student

Your university will be able to tell you in detail how their accommodation works, and might be able to offer you some choice about where you live, so get in touch with them as early as possible to sort out your accommodation.


University-owned accommodation consists of halls of residence, where breakfast and dinner are provided, and self-catering flats. Usually, institutions make their own accommodation available to first-years, with students entering the private rented sector at the start of their second year.

University accommodation is very convenient, especially in your first year, as you don’t have to find a place to live on your own and you don’t normally have to worry about setting up things like broadband. However, you might have to deal with stricter rules, and you might not be able to stay during the holidays.

Halls can be great for your social life, as you’ll be thrown together with other students. The downside is that you don’t get to choose who you live with, so you could get stuck for a year with someone you can’t stand.

Private halls

Halfway between university halls and renting a house or flat are private halls. These are specially built for students, and have some of the same conveniences, such as study rooms, internet connection and shared kitchens.

Universities often have lists of private halls in the area, and might even have checked them over. Check the website, or contact your university’s student services or accommodation department. If they can’t help, you can often find them by word of mouth, since they cater specially to students. You might also see adverts in the student union or around town, but make sure you check out independent opinions before signing up.

You can also find private halls on accommodation websites like, or direct from big chains like Unite.

Private renting

Many institutions have their own accommodation office or agencies, which vet properties on their lists for suitability and can provide a safe place to start. These properties may be cheaper than going through private letting agencies, but they might go quickly, so investigate early. Most private rentals will be listed online, but you should make sure you try a variety of sites to make sure that you have a good overview of what’s available.

Finding a private property will be easier if you’re sharing: a group of people can rent a house more cheaply than one person can rent a flat. Hopefully you’ll have a group to househunt with, but even then you might have to find extra people to fill up the house you want. Your students’ union might have a service to match up potential housemates – but if not, talking to friends or asking on Facebook can get you a long way.

Many privately owned properties are let on a twelve-month basis, with rent due throughout the summer holiday. This is convenient, but can also be more expensive if you’re planning on going home for the summer.

The cost, location and standard of student accommodation can vary considerably, so decide your priorities before you start to look. Your decisions may be motivated by many things, such as cost, security, transport, and closeness to campus, and you’ll have to discuss it all with your potential housemates as well.