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Choosing Postgraduate Accommodation

So, you’ve found your perfect Masters course, and a great university at which to study. Now, it’s time to find somewhere to live.

A safe, clean, conveniently located home could really enhance your postgraduate experience.

But whether you’re doing a Masters in London, Leeds, or Liverpool, there are bound to be several options available to you when it comes to housing.

So which one should you pick? Will you return to university halls of residence, or rent privately? Find private student halls, or consider moving back home?

Follow our advice to help you to work out which is the best option for your Masters accommodation.

University postgraduate halls

Many universities now offer halls specifically for postgraduates.

While the price and layout of this type of accommodation varies by institution, it’s generally a safe bet for Masters students wishing to live alongside other postgraduates, in a quiet location, with an easy set-up.

Halls can also be a great place to meet new people, making them a good option for those moving to a new university.

Accommodation abroad

This page focuses on postgraduate accommodation in the UK. Interested in studying a Masters elsewhere? Read our guides to postgraduate study abroad.

What are postgraduate halls like?

Postgraduate accommodation usually houses students from a mixture of disciplines and in different stages of postgraduate study. This means that Masters and PhD students may share the same flat or building.

Generally, this accommodation is quieter than, and separate from, undergraduate halls.

Many universities offer different living options for postgraduates, at varied prices. These include catered and non-catered accommodation, as well as rooms with either shared or en suite bathrooms.

Sometimes, there is also the opportunity to choose between a mixed or a single-sex flat.

Living abroad in the UK?

Some university halls don't require a UK_based guarantor to vouch for their tenants. This can make them a simpler option for international students.

Some universities also offer studio flats or double rooms, which are ideal for mature students or for those wishing to live with a spouse or partner.

How much do halls cost?

The price of postgraduate accommodation varies by university, but it is usually similar to that of undergraduate halls.

Generally, it’s cheaper than privately renting a studio flat or one-bedroom property, but more expensive than privately renting a room in a shared house or flat.

However, the price of postgraduate accommodation does usually include water and electricity bills, as well as WiFi, giving busy Masters students one less thing to think about.

Other services such as caretaking, security, and cleaning are also often included.

Independent student halls

Independent or ‘private’ halls are modelled on university accommodation, but are owned and operated by commercial businesses. This kind of accommodation is increasingly common in popular university towns, with several institutions and large student populations

What are independent halls like?

Private halls are usually built as blocks of flats, laid out in a similar way to university accommodation. As they’re designed specifically at students, they tend to be located very close to university campuses.

Some may be managed by the companies that built them, perhaps with porters or other staff on hand to provide services and support.

Others may be bought up by individual landlords, investing in the student accommodation market.

How expensive are they?

Private halls are often around the same price as university-owned halls. However, they can be more expensive – particularly if designed and marketed as ‘luxury’ accommodation.

You can browse private halls by using online search tools such as Accommodation for Students, or My Student Halls.

Privately rented student houses and flats

Renting a home privately can provide you with more freedom to choose a property with a location, price, and features that suit you.

If you’re on a tight budget, you may find private renting to be a more cost-effective option than university or independent halls.

However, there are a few things to bear in mind – particularly now you’re going to be a postgraduate.

Finding the right location

It’s worthwhile looking for accommodation that is near your department or a building you visit often, such as a library.

With a packed postgraduate timetable, being a little closer to campus will make it easier for you to pop home for lunch, and will make an extra-curricular evening trip to the library that little bit more likely.

Make sure your accommodation fits the length of your course

Your Masters is likely to last for at least a full year, with dissertation work in the summer. It may be a good idea to look for a rental property with a 52 week contract.

Living within walking distance of university will save you both time and money, and could also provide you with a nice bit of exercise on your way to and from campus.

Choosing landlords or estate agents

When renting privately, you’ll have two options available: either renting through an estate agent who represents your landlord, or renting from a landlord directly.

It can sometimes be a safer (and smoother) bet to go through an estate agent or lettings agent, rather than dealing with a landlord directly. Estate agents help to simplify and manage your rental process, and can help ensure things get sorted quickly, if anything goes wrong with your home.

That isn’t to say that you should never rent directly through a landlord. For one thing, doing so can save you from paying admin fees to an estate agency. For another, there are some excellent, attentive landlords out there. But renting from a landlord can mean going without the security of a well-known agent.

Either way, make sure you do some background research before signing for a house. You can start by searching online for reviews of agents, using websites such as allAgents or rateragent.

Top tips for renting privately

  • Your university is likely to have a property advice centre, which you can call or visit for some free, impartial advice. They may also maintain a list of trusted (and possibly some blacklisted) estate agents and landlords.
  • When browsing properties, be sure to use general estate agents, as well as those specialising in student lettings.
  • As a postgraduate student, you may now be considered for ‘professional’ properties that are normally unavailable to undergraduates. So, with some careful searching, you could end up with a great new home!
  • Private estate agents also offer houses that are rented as a whole property, rather than on a room-by-room basis. These are often cheaper than properties which are rented out as student rooms.

Pay attention to the details

If you're unsure about anything in your tenancy agreement, seek advice from your university. Don't sign a contract until you are completely happy with it.

Although some contracts include utilities, (and sometimes extras such as a TV licence or council tax) most private rental contracts don’t cover bills.

However, there are ways to simplify your bill-paying process and give yourself less to worry about.

You can do this through specialised websites such as Split the Bills or Huru, which allow you to make just one bill payment, rather than paying separately to different providers.

Check the details

If you decide to go all-inclusive with utilities, remember to check whether your usage is capped and, if so, what the fee is for exceeding the limit.

Finding housemates

Finding people to share a home with can be nerve-wracking, particularly if you’re moving to a new city, where you don’t have already have a network of friends.

Luckily, there are plenty of websites such as Spare Room and Easy Roommate that are designed to help you to find your ideal housemates.

Finding housemates

Some universities offer online housing forums, through which students can post and respond to adverts for housemates and spare rooms.

If you’re moving to a new university, you can also try browsing social media sites such as Facebook, or our own postgraduate forum for a group made specifically for students on your course. If there is one, you could use it to find other people who are also joining the university and looking for housemates.

When finding people to live with, it’s worth considering how different housemates will affect your household’s council tax.

Getting value for your money

If you’re moving to a university in a new area, make sure you do some thorough house hunting before signing for a property.

Rental prices in the UK vary widely, so before choosing a new home it’s important to have a good knowledge of your local rental market. This will help you to judge whether properties you view are being offered at a fair price. For more advice on working out your postgraduate living costs, read our guide to the cost of a Masters.

Living at home

Moving home might feel to some like a bit of a backward step.

After living on your own for a long time, you might be worried that moving back in with your family will mean losing independence.

But it could turn out to be an excellent option for your Masters!

Of course, the biggest bonus is the potential to save a lot of money by moving home. Besides, the move is likely to only be temporary, while you complete your course.

It could also provide you with the best, most comfortable environment in which to work for the meantime. This will be particularly useful when it comes to writing your postgraduate dissertation.

Plus, if you need to commute to and from university, you could use this time for doing some core reading or making notes.

The perks of living at home as a postgraduate

Could living at home during your Masters be a more realistic option than you realise? Our blog goes into the details.

Council tax for postgraduates

The good news is that you’ll still be exempt from paying UK council tax as a postgraduate, provided you’re studying full-time. The bad news is that sharing your accommodation with non-students could affect this.

Working out your council tax

  • Students living in university halls are automatically exempt from council tax.
  • Full-time students living alone are exempt from council tax.
  • Households are exempt from council tax if all tenants are studying full-time, i.e. are enrolled on courses lasting at least one year, involving at least 21 hours of study per week. If you live in such a household, you may still receive a council tax bill. In this case, you can apply for an exemption online.
  • A household in which half of the residents are full-time students may only be charged half of the usual council tax for the property.
  • A full-time student living with a group of non-students who are eligible to pay council tax may apply for a personal exemption. This will probably not affect the overall amount due for their property, but will mean the student has no legal obligation to contribute.

You can find more information about council tax for postgraduate students here.

Last updated - 27/06/2018

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