Updated on Friday 15 March 2013
Whilst you are staying in the UK, you will have a variety of accommodation options available to you. Your choices will depend largely on whether your college or university has halls of residence, what city you are located in, and the amount of your monthly budget.
When you sign up for a particular college or university, you will need to indicate that you will require accommodation (unless you have something pre-arranged). Do not assume that you will automatically be given accommodation, but generally as an international student you will be given priority over other students.
One very important tip - once you have been accepted into a program, start looking and arranging accommodation right away! Places fill up very quickly and demand generally exceeds supply.
Halls are a great way to meet new people. They are large buildings, sometime divided into flats where you will have either a single room or share with another student. The room itself may be basic, and if it does not have an en-suite bathroom, communal ones will be provided. Generally the hall will provide basic furniture such as a bed, desk and chair and the rest you will have to supply.
Most halls of residence have a canteen where food is supplied (at a cost) to students. As an international student the food may be unfamiliar, but a good way to immerse yourself in the culture of the UK. Halls are either single or mixed sex, so if you have a preference for either you will need to make this very clear to your university from the beginning when choosing where to live.
Apart from the rooms, there are also communal areas that could have a bar (it is legal to drink alcohol at 18 in the UK), TV, pool table, etc...
Many international students prefer the self-catered option because it allows them the freedom to cook their own food and on their own schedule. Self-catered halls are very similar to standard halls of residence, but there is also a communal kitchen available to all hall residents. Be warned, though - communal kitchens can become places where only the stout of heart dare to venture!
Typically students live in halls during their first year, as it makes adjusting to campus life much simpler and helps in making friends. In their second and third years, some students opt to move into a house or flat which is not part of the university.
If you do move into a flat or house, you will have to sign a tenancy agreement, which is a legal document outlining the terms of the tenancy. Be very careful to make sure you fully understand the terms and issues of the contract, and if you do have any doubts talk to your international student advisor who can assist you further.
A flat or house is generally more expensive than any other option, and you may find it hard to find accommodation that is close to your campus. However many students like the freedom to live where they choose, live with whom they like and choose the type of place they want to live in. With halls, you don't have this flexibility.
For more information about student housing and renting accommodation as a student in the UK please see our two articles covering "What you need to know about student renting in the UK" and "Student Housing Overview fo the UK"