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American student Briana with friends at the University of Edinburgh

Where can I live as a student in the UK?

There are many different accommodation options for international students in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The most common are:

   •   Accommodation owned by the school, college or university (often known as halls of
   •   Boarding schools (suitable for pupils up to the age of 18),
   •   Private accommodation (where you rent from a private landlord),
   •   Homestay accommodation (where you stay with a UK family or guardian).

See below for details of these types of accommodation.

Deciding where to live

Finding accommodation where you feel safe, happy and secure is important. When deciding where to live, do your research – ask the accommodation manager/owner, campus staff or any students who live there, questions such as:

   •  How close is the accommodation to my place of study?
   •  How safe is the area?
   •  Are there good public transport links?
   •  Which facilities are shared with other students?
   •  Is it quiet enough for studying and sleeping?
   •  What do the accommodation costs include? If you need to pay for utilities (gas, electricity and
      water), for example, how much do they usually cost per month? Will you need to bring your own
      kitchen equipment, bedding or any furniture?

Accommodation owned by your school, college or university

You may be offered accommodation in a hall of residence, where you will have your own bedroom but share facilities such as the kitchen with other students. This can be a fantastic way to make friends, and is often good value for money too.

A hall of residence usually has a member of staff living on the premises. They are there to check the hall runs smoothly and to give you advice or support.

Most halls welcome both female and male students, but there is a usually single sex hall for male students and a single sex hall for female students on each campus too.

Your bedroom is likely to have a bed, desk, bookshelves and possibly a sink. Bathrooms are usually shared. Most halls have a social room where you can chat and watch TV with your fellow students, and some also have a quiet room for study, a small library and a prayer room, which students of any religion can use.

When it comes to food, halls can be catered, self-catered or part-catered. Check what is included in your accommodation fees. Also check if your fees cover cleaning, use of the laundry facilities and a TV licence, and if there are any additional costs you will need to meet.

University students usually live in halls for their first year. If your course lasts for more than a year, you may be able to stay in halls for the subsequent years too. If not, you will have to find private accommodation.

Your college or university may be able to help you arrange this, or offer managed properties (private accommodation managed by the college or university).

Boarding schools

At a boarding school (a residential school for pupils up to age 18), each student is usually assigned to a ‘house’ where you have a bedroom or a bed in a shared room or dormitory. Each house has at least one member of staff living on the premises to look after you. You normally receive all your meals, and your laundry will usually be taken care of too. Find out more in Life at a UK boarding school.

It can be great fun being a boarder. Your house will typically organise parties and events so you will have lots of opportunities to make friends.

In co-educational schools, boys and girls have separate sleeping accommodation, though there may be some common social areas. There are lots of single sex schools too.

Your opinion of the boarding accommodation is likely to be one of the biggest factors in your choice of school. It’s really useful to visit the UK before you accept a place, if you can, to check you are happy with the facilities.

Private accommodation

Many UK students live in private, rented accommodation. This is especially popular for students in the second year of their studies and onwards. You can rent a place on your own, or share with other students.

Sharing is common for students in the UK – it can help to reduce your costs and can be fun and sociable. You might live in a two-, three- or four-bedroom house, for example, where you will have your own bedroom but share the bathroom, kitchen and living areas with other students.

If you plan to rent, think about costs for utilities (gas, electricity and water) and a TV licence. Most student accommodation is already furnished, but you may need to provide your own items such as kitchen utensils and bedding. Have a look at the Money section for tips on living costs and budgeting.

'Council tax' is a fee charged to UK households to cover local government services – roads, street lighting, waste collection, etc. Households where everyone is a full-time student don’t have to pay council tax, but it is best to check. Find out more on the gov.uk website.

Places to search for private accommodation include:

  • your school, college or university welfare office or accommodation office.
  • adverts around campus or online. Try Gumtree for listings.
  • local estate agents (visit estate agents in the area where you want to live, to ask about available properties).

Before you move in, you may have to pay a deposit and sign a contract. Please see the UKCISA website for more advice about this.

Homestay accommodation

A 'homestay' is where you live with a UK family in their own home. Homestays are especially popular with English language students or younger students. They can be a great opportunity to experience UK culture first-hand. Talk to your school, college or university to see if they can help you arrange this, or try companies such as Hosts International and British Homestays.

Short-term accommodation

When you first arrive, or if you have any family or friends coming to visit you in the UK, you may need to find short-term accommodation. Hotels and ‘bed and breakfasts’ (often called ‘B&Bs’, or guesthouses) can sometimes be expensive, but you can find discounts online. Youth hostels and backpacker hostels are often a cheap alternative – look online or ask your institution to recommend hostels in your area.

Top tips from Graduate Prospects

Graduate Prospects runs UK graduate careers website prospects.ac.uk. Here, the experts share their advice for student accommodation.

  • Finding somewhere to call home is one of the most important decisions you'll face, so familiarise yourself with the process before starting your journey. It's important to start making housing arrangements as soon as possible – as early as receiving the acceptance letter from your school, college or university.

  • If you’re looking for private accommodation, your institution should be able to help you find listings for private letting companies and landlords in the area. Other good places to search include SpareRoomFlatmaterooms and Easy Roommate.
  • When it comes to contracts, be clear from the beginning – understanding your contract is important, whatever your accommodation arrangements. If you breach this agreement you may be subject to fines, eviction, or court action. Take your time to read the document, or ask someone to double-check it – such as your students' union or the Citizens Advice Bureau.

  • Make a copy of the contract and keep it – you may need to refer back to it if any questions or problems arise during your tenancy.

  • Check for extra costs: Aside from your rent, are there any more expenses involved? Landlords and letting agents sometimes charge administration fees in addition to your deposit. Don't transfer any money until after you have signed the contract.

  • Pay close attention to the inventory: If you are renting private housing or university-managed property, you should be given an inventory (ask for it if you aren’t given one) – a list of the contents of the property and the condition of each item. This allows you to prove that you did not cause damage, and therefore are entitled to receive your deposit back in full when you move out. Make sure that everyone you live with has a copy, and that it’s signed and dated.

  • Be aware of other necessary documentation: For example, tenants should legally receive an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) which rates the energy efficiency of the property.

Read this article in full, or see more advice from Graduate Prospects in Entering a career.

Find out more

Visit the UK Council for International Student Affairs website for excellent advice on student accommodation.