Ah yes, student accommodation… We all have different images in our head when it comes to student living.
On one side you’ve got what I would call ‘the stereotypical view’ – that which you may have heard from your parents. I’m talking the smelly, dirty flat or house with the leaking roof and blocked toilet. The messy kitchen with the dodgy oven and the overflowing bin that has a funny reek to it reminiscent of a dead animal.
Thankfully, I can put such stereotypes to rest. The modern student accommodation is only as well-kept as the students make it. If it’s kept in good order you could probably mistake it for a family home in some cases. Of course, there are many nasty, entertaining and sometimes downright hilarious examples of where this isn’t true, but you’d be amazed how well some places are kept.
There are two main types of accommodation in student living:
First of all, there are the student halls of residence. Frequently they are owned and run by the university (though sometimes you’ll find companies that run them on the uni’s behalf.)
More often than not you’ll find them located fairly close to the university you’re studying in, though naturally with some universities in cities with limited space, you might have to travel a little distance to get into lectures each week.
The majority of first-year students elect to go into student halls of residence -reasons range from being close to the uni to meeting as many new people as possible. Every university should have enough residence hall accommodation to house every first year student (University of Lincoln took a fair bit of heat in 2011 for underestimating the number of new students and had to have temporary portacabins brought in for the extras!)
Some universities allow students to stay beyond their first year (and companies who run them on their behalf often get a say on the matter too) though with some places supply is so tight the option isn’t there. This is where…
…the second option comes about. This is your private housing sector. The private sector is full of landlords and landladies who offer houses to groups of students. Some choose to go alone, others sign up to letting and management agencies to help find and manage students.
Many students look for this type of living after their first year, opting to move out of halls and take more responsibility.
Of course, there are many pros and cons of each, so it’s up to you as a student to decide what you want to do. Let’s take a quick look:
Halls of Residence
The good – Student halls are a great way to get settled in for the first time as a student. Most, if not the vast majority, of students in there are new to university (I’m sure you’ll get the occasional old codger like me, but generally you’re all new.) With everyone so new and nervous, it’s often a good icebreaker to know that everyone there is experiencing the same emotions and experiences.
Student accommodation is reasonably well-kept. Because the halls of residence are more attached to the university, a good set of residencies are far better for a university’s reputation than private halls. Therefore it’s easy to say that, as a result, they are tended to quite well. For the price you’re paying, halls of residences aren’t too bad in terms of their price. Typically around £90 a week, unless you’re getting a really raw deal, you’ll find your internet connection included in the cost, along with all your bills and utilities. They’re also equipped pretty reasonably too, with en suite facilities becoming the norm more and more. If nothing else, student accommodation is much more secure. There’s next-to-no risk of a landlord going under or something going wrong. If there’s a problem, maintenance is generally easily accessible.
That said…. The quality varies a bit. You’ll find that some blocks are run more professionally and with more care. There have been frustrating times where the hob in my flat didn’t work and it took three weeks to repair. This was made more frustrating by the fact that my mate found an inconspicuous tear in this carpet (nowhere serious or dangerous) which got repaired the next day. Get used to it – you may begin to question your sanity. Some accommodation blocks you’ll find are priced pretty badly too, often based on convenience. For example, in Lincoln there are two accommodation blocks that look basically identical on the inside (get me a photo of each and the only difference I could spot would probably be the curtain colour.) However, because one is next to a faculty building (the other close to the sports centre and probably actually in a more desirable location) the former can be £600 more expensive over the cost of the tenancy. You do wonder what benefit you’re getting, other than being next door to where you’re studying. This is especially true of ones that are run by private companies on behalf of the university. Some students also complain of a lack of responsibility. You pay your rent and complain if there’s a problem. It’s not like private halls where there is a lot to manage. That can be a appetite-damper.
Firstly, there’s nothing more appealing than a place of your own with your mates. You’ve grouped together, found somewhere yourself and you’ve got a house complete with back garden, large fridge and TV that works all day, regardless if you’ve got an XBox or a PS3. That is at the pinnacle of student living. You’re responsible people too. You’ve got to manage your bills and rent, which is an adult thing to do. Not bad for somewhere that, in some places, actually is a nicer place to live than a standard hall of residence.
Of course, there are pitfalls. Firstly you have to be careful contractually. There may be things written in the contract that state that if a mate drops out, the rest of you are responsible for the rent until you find someone new. Thankfully, I’m told this is a rarity. There are also concerns over the quality of some places that are on the market – accusations of badly-kept properties are rife, especially with uncooperative landlords in charge. There are also stories of management companies being poor too; failing to deal with problems despite willing and able landlords.
Ultimately you need to weigh this all up. Personally, I’ve lived in halls of residence for my first two years – in September in Grenoble I will do the same and likely again for my fourth and final year. There’s something about the convenience that makes it so easy.
What did you decide to do? Drop us a comment.