Before arriving in the UK there are a number things to think about and important decisions must be made. You must be clear on what options are available to you, what you want from your accommodation, what you need, what you can afford and what would you be willing to compromise on. Another important factor which a lot of new students fail to do is to secure your accommodation in good time, for example if your are planning to live in an institutional accommodation, you must make sure you finalise the arrangements before you arrive in the UK. But if your plan is to arrive first to see what is available then you must make sure you apply for entry clearance as a ‘prospective student’, once you have been given permission to enter the UK you can start to make arrangements for temporary accommodation before arriving.
Here are some examples of the many types of accommodation available to students in the UK:
Halls of residence – Buildings owned by the universities for housing students only, they are usually located on the university site or walking distance so it is very convenient for students.
Shared accommodation in houses or apartments – This would be the most common practice among students, where a number of students share a private owned house or apartment. Typically in these situations you will have your private bedrooms but sharing the living space, kitchen and bathroom.
Hostels - A supervised, inexpensive lodging place for travellers, especially young travellers.
For more information make sure you contact the university for the options available to you and what they can do for you.
What you need to know
When enquiring about the accommodation you must ask where the accommodation is located. It could be located on campus or a distance away from the university, and if it is then you must check what the area offers you such as shops, if friends live close by and if any public transport is available.
Students find it hard to forget about the rent but many times they tend to forget to consider the hidden costs. Take into consideration the money you will be spending on meals on a daily basis, utility bills (gas, electricity, water etc.) and travel costs, how much it will cost you using public transport. If you are going for the institutionally located accommodation then you must check with the university what the cost of the accommodation covers, as the majority of institutions cover the utility costs.
Students must be aware of what the institutions or landlords requirements are regarding to upfront payments such as deposits and the dates and method of payments. Make sure you understand the consequences should you fail to pay your rent on time.
The standard academic year runs from September/October to May/June for undergraduates and September/October to September for postgraduates. The letting year for accommodation typically runs from August or September to the end of June. It is sometimes possible to negotiate an extension to include residence for the summer months (July, August and the first 10 days or so of September). Make sure that your accommodation requirements fit your study requirements. You may be on a course which operates to a non-standard calendar (for example a Semester 2 start); you may have a requirement for a postgraduate writing-up period at the end of your studies; or you may want to attend a graduation ceremony beyond the end of your course and your accommodation contract. Think about these issues and check with your institution or landlord if you have concerns.
This is just the basics for you to know, there are much more for you to know so don’t forget to do your research and to ask as many questions, by covering all of this you avoid any nasty surprises which could disturb you from your studies.