Student accommodation guide #3: private halls
Considering the private hall option? Some universities will refer you to 3rd party providers if they don't have enough spaces in their halls. This is what you should know...
What are private halls?Private student halls are usually owned and operated by a third party company, rather than a specific university (though they may have ongoing partnerships with specific institutions to support their housing needs).
They're very similar to university campus halls in that you get your room – some offer shared and studio rooms too – plus communal spaces like kitchens and social areas. Your rent will cover utility bills (energy, water, internet) too.
They're quite common in large cities which attract high numbers of students, either throughout the year or for short periods eg over the summer. While some may be predominantly occupied by students from one or two institutions, they're often a buzzing hub for students from a few different institutions, especially international students – perfect if you want to expand your social network.
Like traditional university halls, they'll have on-site staff and security if you need assistance, as well as host social activities for students to meet and get to know one another eg pub crawls, film nights.
Well-known private accommodation providers include Unite, IQ, Liberty Living and Chapter.
Research by Unipol and the National Union of Students (NUS) found that private halls account for half of student bed spaces in the UK, up from 39% in 2012 (Source: Accommodation Costs Survey 2018).
Your university housing office can helpIf your university is small, doesn't have enough spots in halls to accommodate all their students, or simply doesn't offer halls of their own, they'll likely recommend you to private accommodation providers in the area. Remember, your university housing team isn't just there just to place you in university managed accommodation; staff there can help you find a private housing option, too.
They should have an approved list of private providers, and may have a more formal partnership in place with a private company to provide student accommodation. Chat through your options with the housing team office before contacting a private provider directly.
If you’re struggling to find a private provider with any rooms left, you can always consider renting a private flat or house from an agent or landlord.
Choosing private halls: pros and cons
So, you've found a space available in private student halls. But before completing your accommodation application, weigh up these pros and cons:
Pros of private halls
- Purpose-built for students: expect something very similar to university halls, perhaps of an even higher standard
- Bills included: many private halls will include utilities and broadband in the rent
- Generally convenient location: you'll be near to campus/the university community. They're often well-integrated into the local city or town, so you might feel more connected to the area.
- Sociable: you might also be sharing with students from other universities which is great to meet new people you wouldn't otherwise interact with
Cons of private halls
- Can be pricey: ask yourself, do you really need an ensuite or private studio rental? Will you use all those plush perks (eg gym, sauna, cinema room)?
- Not university registered buildings: although your uni can recommend you private halls of residence, these are not actually officially part of your university
- Same student halls pitfalls apply: noise, not choosing who you live with, mess and so on
Typical costs: private halls vs. renting private housing
Don't want to live on campus?
While rent is inclusive of bills and contracts may be slightly shorter than in the private rented sector (although they are typically longer than with university halls), private student halls are still overall likely to be the most expensive accommodation option overall.
According to Unipol and NUS's Accommodation Costs Survey 2018, the average weekly rent for private student halls has increased by over £150 since 2011, mainly driven up by the rise in standards and facilities they offer; these can include on-site gyms, 24-hour concierge, complimentary meals and more. While these sound cool to have, really consider whether you'll actually get enough use out of them to justify the price tag. If the answer is 'no', think about uni halls or private rentals instead.
The location you are studying in will also make a big difference on how much you'll be paying in rent if you go down the private halls route. If you're living in London, expect to pay an average of £8,000+ per year in rent (based on 2018/19 figures), compared to the East of England or Wales (both under £6,000 per year).
However, remember that you will be entitled to a higher maintenance loan if you're studying away from home, in London.
Tip: It’s worth comparing what you'll get for your money if you go down the private rental route. Check your budget and work out how much you'll have to play with each month before you go for it. Your maintenance loan might not completely cover your rent, so consider how you might make up the difference.
About our data
*University halls data: collated from cheapest non-catered hall prices, as advertised on individual university websites, correct as of February 2018.