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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 and internet) too.

They're quite common in large cities which attract high numbers of students, either throughout the year or for short periods 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, like pub crawls and film nights.

Your university housing office can help 

If 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. 
I stayed in private halls because I went through Clearing. I would recommend my halls to anyone - don't be put off by the fact it isn't university accommodation. In fact, it's possibly better than being in halls because you get a break from university if you want. It was located in a perfect place, a 10 minute walk from the city centre, five minutess from the quayside and 15 minutess from the far side of campus. Second Year French Student | Northumbria University

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 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: ensuites and private studio rentals come with their perks, but you'll have to pay a premium for them
  • 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 and messy shared spaces
  • Read more: guide to private accommodation

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 as they usually offer on-site gyms, 24-hour concierge, complimentary meals and more.

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. Living in London will be the most expensive, but you'll be entitled to a higher maintenance loan.

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.

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