If your child has their heart set on university halls, they’ll need to do their research and apply early. Places aren’t always guaranteed, so it’s important to encourage them to think about alternative accommodation, which can be equally fun and provide a safe living environment.


University halls

The traditional option for first year students, these are managed by the university and offer a good stepping stone from living at home to living independently.

Private student halls

A second option in some areas is a room in a purpose-built student living complex owned by a private company. Factor in which bills are included, what facilities are onsite, and how far it is from campus.

Questions to ask about university halls

Try to see one or two halls of residence on an open day – you’ll probably be taken to the best on offer, but it’s a great time to do some fact finding.

  1. Is a place in halls guaranteed? What accommodation is available off-campus?

  2. Would a place still be guaranteed if the uni is your child’s insurance choice?

  3. What does it cost, and what’s included in that cost?

  4. Do students have to move in and out each term?

  5. Are they catered or self-catered?

  6. How big are the rooms? Are some bigger than others?

  7. How quiet are they?

  8. Can you put stuff on the walls?

  9. How secure is it?

  10. What happens in years two and three?

  11. How far will you have to travel to get to uni and town?

  12. Can you bring a car?

  13. How close is it to lecture halls, town, etc.?

  14. Does the university have a dedicated housing service for finding accommodation on and off-campus?

What do they need to pack?

Must-take items

  • Clothes – don’t pack everything! Enough for that term will do.
  • Bedding – duvet, sheets, pillows, and towels.
  • Bathroom – toiletries, medication, and a small first aid kit.
  • Laundry – washing products, laundry bag, and drying rack.
  • Electronics – laptop, printer, extension leads, and chargers.
  • Kitchen – cutlery, crockery, glasses, pots, pans, and basic gadgets such as a kettle and toaster, if these won’t be provided (check with the accommodation first).
  • Admin – passport, driving licence, NHS medical card, National Insurance number, and all important correspondences with the university.
  • Food basics – coffee, tea bags, cereal, cooking oil, tins, and condiments.
  • Some home comforts – a few special extras reminding them of home can help them settle in.

Safety on campus

Don’t worry, as well as support teams, universities have security guards and teams for facilities and maintenance. There’s often a student intranet or app with all the information and contact details they might need.

  • Security guards on campus
  • Maintenance teams if anything needs repairing
  • Accommodation support teams
  • Signposting to medical provision
  • Wellbeing teams for mental health support
  • Students' Union reps to speak to
  • Accessibility support

Alternative accommodation

Private accommodation

A good option for mature students, and those who missed out on halls because they applied late or through Clearing, but it can be a big leap from living at home.

Staying at home

It can work out well for students to continue living at home – as long as you’re happy for them to stay! They may need to make more effort to get out and socialise to meet other students, but they’ll save money and avoid the hassle of moving.

Find the right accommodation

Finding somewhere they’ll be happy to live is an important consideration for your child when choosing where to study. Read our advice on different types of accommodation and their pros and cons, and use our search to find the right place.

Accommodation advice

International student accommodation

Some universities have dedicated international halls or guaranteed accommodation places for international students, but this varies so check with them if your child is interested in this.

If you have family in the city where your child is going to study, they could consider living with them. Research transport options to ensure your child is able to get to their classes on time.

Most private accommodation providers require a financial guarantor based in the UK. If you don’t have someone who can do this, there are companies that can do this for your child.

Top tips for arriving and the first few days

  1. Mobile phones

    Make sure your child's phone either has international data or is unlocked to take a UK sim card. Many phone companies offer special international data rates, or you can consider using a WiFi based service.
  2. Student banking

    If you plan to transfer money, research good international transfer rates – your child can also check this when they set up their UK bank account. International students can usually only set up a student bank account in person once they've arrived in the UK, as the bank needs to see ID documents and a letter from their university.
  3. University starter packs

    Many universities offer an affordable ‘starter pack’ for international students with basic bedding and kitchen items that can be left for them in their accommodation. Bring relevant adaptors for electronics – UK plug sockets are type G.

  4. Bring original documents

    It’s very important your child brings original copies of the documents used to gain entry onto the course (e.g. their exam certificates and language qualification) as the university needs to verify these at enrolment – they can’t accept photocopies.
  5. Buy the right clothes

    Check the UK climate compared to your own country, although we recommend buying bulky items after your child arrives. It's usually easier to find the right clothes in the UK as shops sell clothes designed for our weather! Also make sure your child understands the clothing size conversions.
  6. On campus

    Make sure your child knows where to go on campus for certain things, such as health services, the international office, and visa team. It’s also good to know where the students’ union is, for support on getting involved in activities and making friends. 
  7. Attendance

    Speak to your child about the importance of turning up to any enrolment activities on their timetable (and all classes), as attendance is reported to the UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration service) as part of the agreement in issuing the visa.