When the time comes for the kids to fly the nest and move to university, it can be an emotional yet exciting time for the family.
Part of you is anticipating how the house will feel without them there; less washing, more space, tidier rooms. We get it – our article “10 reasons why parents look forward to their child going to university” says it all. But you may also be sad at the idea of missing them every day. That’s why it’s important to have a clear understanding of the university processes, to be there for your child at a time of significant change in their life.
We’ve created this parents’ guide to university accommodation so you can help your child choose their new temporary home and go through the process together.
The first question, where is your child going to live?
1. Halls of residence
Many students choose to live in halls of residence during their first year at university. Lots of halls are populated with wardens (e.g. older students who may be studying postgraduate) who are on hand to help your child settle in and handle any issues they may have.
Halls of residence are also the most secure of all university accommodation.
Here’s a few of the reasons why:
- University officials on-site (usually found in the accommodation office)
- Fire doors and fire alarms fitted
- Easy-access, and well sign-posted, fire exits
- Contents insurance may be provided by the accommodation provider. Check whether your child is covered here.
Halls are generally well-maintained, with lots of accommodation being cleaned regularly so that students have more time to focus on their studies. Halls are also usually close to the university campus so your child won’t have to go far to locate their first lecture or seminar.
Bear in mind that halls are normally allocated on a first-come-first-served basis. If your child is going through clearing for their university spot, they might want to consider alternative student accommodation options as a backup plan – just in case.
How much does halls of residence cost?
The cost of halls will vary depending on which university your child is considering. It also depends on how long the academic session is (amount of study weeks per year).
Below are some examples of universities and their halls of residence costs:
- University of Birmingham - £185 - £210 per week
- University of Gloucestershire - £116 - £197 per week
- University of East Anglia - £76 - £163 per week
- University of Edinburgh - £90 - £250 per week
The rent for halls is usually paid per term.
Some halls of residence will offer a catered option, whereby students are provided with breakfast and an evening meal. Self-catering options are naturally less expensive.
The best ways to gauge how much your child’s student accommodation is going to cost, are:
- Go along to an open day and ask one of the volunteers
- Phone the university and speak with the accommodation office
- Get hold of a prospectus
2. Student house share
Usually, students move into shared housing for their second year onwards. By then they’ll have formed friendship groups either with their flatmates from halls or with people from their study course or extra-curricular societies, so they’ll have a good idea of who they want to live with.
Student housing is normally dealt with via local letting agents, instead of the university’s accommodation office. Make sure you check out the letting agent before you sign on the dotted line and ask around the university, as they usually have a list of recommended agents or landlords to go with.
The deposits for student housing can be pricey, but generally the cost of rooms is lower than the cost of halls. It all depends on the landlord and the rates the letting agent has in place. One check you should carry out is whether the landlord’s deposit is registered with a deposit protection scheme.
Remember, not all student housing is near to campus. Your child may be in for a shock if they’ve enjoyed a year of halls close to campus, and their second year means a 20-minute walk to their lectures.
Local authority standards
Houses of Multiple Occupation, commonly known as HMOs, usually have additional, higher property standards placed on them by the local authority. An HMO is a house containing five or more people, over three or more storeys. The standards include:
- Fire detection equipment
- High levels of security
- Enough amenities to cater to all tenants, e.g. bathrooms and kitchen
Student unions usually supply leaflets and other helpful information to students, to help them go through the shared housing process. Typically, students should start looking to secure their house for second year just after the Christmas period, as housing near to campus is popular and will be on a first-come-first-served basis.
3. Living with non-students
The typical term for this type of accommodation arrangement is “lodging”. Lodging is ideal for students who want peace and quiet away from the noise of other students and would rather live with people who don’t go to university.
While the idea of peace and quiet is appealing, lodging can also be a lonely situation. Your child may feel isolated, away from their peers and may miss out on forming friendships with other students if they are constantly going home to a different environment.
Most landlords in the vicinity will be known to the university. Make sure you check with the university before your child goes ahead and becomes a lodger.
Lodging is typically associated with renting in the private sector. While your child may choose to rent in a property that isn’t linked to the university, companies such as UNITE also offer private sector accommodation for students, usually in apartment blocks near to campus.
4. Living alone
Independent living can be an ideal option for many students. Living alone is beneficial in that they’ll always have a quiet place to study and, if they enjoy a tidy home, won’t have to deal with the anxiety of living in other students’ mess.
Although living alone has its benefits, it can also have its downfalls. Would your child get lonely? If your home environment is busy and full of family bustle, your child may find it difficult adjusting to life alone at university. Single lets may also prove to be more expensive than shared housing, so make sure you and your child check out the costs before committing to anything.
5. Living at home
There’s always the option for your child to stay at home and commute to university. This is a great way to minimise student debt, as there won’t be any need for a maintenance loan. It’s also ideal if you live near to the university, as travel is easier for your child.
Some students choose to commute for hours to university just to save on loans. If this is something your child wants to consider, it may be worth weighing up the cost of travel and being isolated away from their peers during the evenings and weekends.
If your child is into sports and joins clubs and societies, living at home can be difficult. Your child may find themselves having to stay over at a friend’s after a late night in the library when all the transport has stopped running.
Are students covered by parents’ home insurance?
Once your child has chosen their preferred student accommodation, you’ll need to start thinking about costs and insurance. “Are students covered by parents’ home insurance?” is a common question for a lot of students and their parents, which is why we’ve included it in this university guide for parents. You can cover your child’s belongings under your insurance but be mindful that not every insurance provider will give you the option to do so.
While putting your child’s belongings on your insurance policy may work in their favour, it may not be a positive for you. A claim on your insurance could affect your renewal quote and annual premium. There’s also the cost of adding your child’s items to your policy - it may be cheaper for them to take out their own student insurance policy.
Ultimately, choosing their accommodation is an exciting prospect for most students - your child may already know exactly which type of accommodation they want to live in! As their home away from home, it’s important to make sure they are safe and comfortable.
And if you’re worried about your child losing or damaging their belongings? Get peace of mind that your child’s belongings are protected by insurance.