Choosing between the different types of student housing

There are several types of accommodation which students will need to choose from. These are listed below along with a short description on how they vary:

  • University halls – for your first year, university halls are a popular choice and a great opportunity to meet new friends. They tend to be either on campus or within proximity to university buildings

  • Private halls – Similar to university halls, these are very sociable places of residence. Private halls may differ in terms of layout, costing, and proximity to university buildings

  • Private accommodation – from second year onwards, students usually live in private accommodation (although for some students this may be the case for first year also) alongside a group of preferred friends within the area you study. Private accommodation can vary in cost dependent on many factors such as room size, amenities, location etc. Be mindful that this needs to be organised individually by yourself and/or friends with private landlords

  • Living at home – If it is a viable option, you can of course choose to live at home during your studies


    Tim (a young visually impaired adult who had tried out a number of different housing options while studying) told us:

    ‘Halls have people watching over them – like wardens or security guards or whatever – so they are quite well-governed. If anything happens or there are any problems, they will get solved.’

For a more detailed breakdown of these types of accommodation, Which? University and the National Union of Students have put together a useful list of pros and cons for each option.

The Student Housing Guide is also a great resource to find out everything you need to know for each university city regarding transport, pubs, restaurants, accommodation and much more.


Areas for consideration for living arrangements at university


Priority living

Universities generally prioritise students with disabilities when allocating places in halls with rooms that are self-contained or have an en-suite, as well as considering ease of travel through proximity to study areas. Other adaptions could include a larger desk or tactile additions to your room so do make sure highlight your accessibility requirements when you apply remember that bigger accommodation options are usually more expensive.

You can find out whether the university can subsidise accommodation costs by contacting the Disability Support Office and the Accommodation Officer in good time to discuss your financial options. It is also advised to find out what Housing Benefit you may be eligible for by clicking here.

 

Catered or self-catered options

Consider other needs that may be available such as catered living which usually involves students receiving a pre-paid allowance (this will be included in your total accommodation costs) for food and drinks at specified places to eat. Alternatively, you may prefer a self-catered approach. Many universities have small supermarkets on campus where you will be able to get everyday items, or you may prefer to just shop online instead.

 

Guide Dogs

Be sure to notify the university or college if you use a Guide Dog as this may have an affect on who you live with and in which location.

 

Orientation process

You may consider moving in early to acquaint yourself with the area and learn the easiest travel routes and the layout of the new accommodation. You can also ask your university and the assessor for your DSA for support with this.

Also speak to your housemates to discuss considerations they could make to ease your day-to-day navigation such as kitchen and fridge shelving locations or returning appliances to original positions to then be easily located.


Here is a useful ‘Moving in Guide’ on what to remember and prepare for with rented accommodation.

 

Tips for settling into your halls

The following tips are from students with sight loss who were interviewed as part of the VICTAR transitions study.

On prioritising you have the right accommodation:
“...the university prioritised my choice, because obviously having a visual impairment, having a disability -  they do that. That was fine.”
On ensuring you have an accesible room in university halls:
“Make sure the room is big enough and that you have got enough space at a desk. Don’t be afraid to ask for stuff like extra plug sockets, because I did – in my first year flat, I needed one, so I asked and I got it.”
On negotiating accessibility in the kitchen space with fellow housemates: 
“I think I could have probably asked, and they would probably have said yes, but I didn’t.  I think in a lot of ways, one thing I have realised is that most of the time you have to ask if you want something, or ask if it’s possible to have something, normally they don’t think to ask.”


Finally, watch Jennie’s story below who talks about her experiences of finding a house off-campus for the second year of her course at the University of Birmingham.