Thieves target 'rich' students

Burglaries are rising fast at college, so undergraduates should buy cover

Every four minutes a student in Britain is burgled, according to startling figures from the National Union of Students (NUS). Halls of residence and students' houses are now among the most attractive targets for burglars. Many students today own a television, a stereo and a computer - not bad pickings for the average thief.

Every four minutes a student in Britain is burgled, according to startling figures from the National Union of Students (NUS). Halls of residence and students' houses are now among the most attractive targets for burglars. Many students today own a television, a stereo and a computer - not bad pickings for the average thief.

These alarming statistics should spur the college population into thinking carefully about taking out cover. Insurance, of course, has never been a top priority among students. Many do not think they have anything worth insuring. However, even clothes and books tot up in value. According to specialist student insurer Endsleigh, the average student has belongings worth more than £3,000.

There are various types of insurance cover available. In some cases students' possess- ions, while they are away, may be covered by their parents' home contents insurance.

Churchill's standard policies automatically cover belongings away from the home for permanent members of the family. A permanent member includes sons and daughters and is defined as someone whose main address is that on the insurance policy but who temporarily lives away from home. Offsprings' possessions are covered for up to 10 per cent of the sum insured. This tends to provide £3,500 of cover, as standard cover is £35,000.

As part of its standard policy, Direct Line provides £5,000-worth of cover for students living away from home. If the parents have personal possessions cover, their child's belongings will also be covered.

Even though such cover is automatic, it is still worth informing your insurer that your child will be living away from home. "It is advisable to keep your insurer informed about any changes in circumstances so they can make a note of it," says Gill Murphy from Direct Line. "If there are individual items of value or of special significance - musical instruments or computers - it is worth noting them down."

Royal & SunAlliance Direct provides automatic cover for children away at university under the temporary removal clause in its policies. Cover is up to 15 per cent of the sum insured. However, policies obtained via brokers cover possessions only up to a value of £500. The level of cover can be extended for an extra charge. For example, £3,000-worth of cover in one of the main student areas in Birmingham - B29 - would add an extra £72 to the cost of a premium. In such cases it may be worth shopping around for a better deal somewhere else.

Endsleigh, Harrison Beaumont and Saxon Insurance Services offer stand-alone insurance policies tailored to students. NatWest, HSBC and Lloyds TSB offer insurance as part of their student packages. Standard cover from these providers is relatively inexpensive for students living in halls of residence. Saxon's premium is the cheapest at £15 for a year, but all are under £30. Check the level of cover as it may be inadequate, with some items such as computers, bicycles, and sports equipment requiring extra cover.

An increasing number of universities are taking out block cover for students living in halls of residence, the cost of which is included in the rent. It is therefore worth checking, before taking out separate insurance, whether or not this applies.

For students living off-campus, premiums can be significantly higher, depending on the postcode. Saxon has three categories of risk. Some 90 per cent of universities, it says, are in the low-risk category. The highest risk areas include Birmingham, Coventry, Hull, Leeds, Manchester, Middlesbrough and Sunderland.

Saxon's prices are the most competitive on the market: even students living in areas with the most vulnerable postcodes can get unlimited cover from as little as £53. Endsleigh has 10 area categories, costing a student living in Leeds LS2, which is one of Endsleigh's highest-risk areas, £96 for only £2,000-worth of cover.

While it may be cheaper to include your child on your insurance policy, rather than take out a stand-alone policy, this can be restrictive. Should your child get burgled, your premium may rise. You need to prove forced entry for a claim to be valid, which you don't have to provide with student cover.

Whichever insurance prov- ider you opt for, check the small print of the policy and make sure you are aware of what is covered and what is excluded. Most students are already financially stretched, so they might well cut corners when it comes to insurance cover. However, given the horrific statistics for the number of burglaries of student houses, it makes sense for students to re-think their priorities.

* Contacts: Churchill, 0800 200345; Direct Line, 0845 246 8000; Endsleigh, 0800 028 3571; Harrison Beaumont, 01993 700200; HSBC, 0800 277377; Lloyds TSB, 0845 300 0571; NatWest, 0800 783 5657; Royal & SunAlliance, 0800 300660; Saxon: 0116 264 4618.

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