Property: University challenge

Four students tell Tom Barton how they dealt with the problem of finding accommodation
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The Independent Online
Alongside lectures and coping with huge increases in alcohol intake, one of the learning experiences facing the 320,000 new students who go to university over the next couple of weeks is independent living. Halls of residence, buying your own place, lodging with a family or renting with friends: which of these is cheapest, easiest and least stressful?

Here, four students describe the advantages and disadvantages of the different choices:

Roz Sefi, 21, from Thame in Oxfordshire, is a communications student at Leeds University. She has bought a six-bedroom house, which she sublets to friends.

"Owning my own house is an amazing liberation, and a lot of hard work. It is lovely to get to live in my own place, to decorate it how I want, and to have a permanent room so that I don't have to worry about finding somewhere new each year.

"However, it can be tough, because I have to play the part of a landlady - when something breaks or needs decorating it falls to me to sort it out.

"I spent my first year in the halls of residence. They were terrible - full of corridors and cupboard-like rooms. It was more like a hotel than a home, and there was never any opportunity to have proper parties.

"By the start of my second year, I felt that I had to live in a house. My mum had died during my gap year, and I had inherited some money, so I thought that putting it towards a house would be a good investment. Buying a house was quite a weird experience. Perhaps I should have spoken to more people - in particular the university housing office.

"I've not made any money out of it, but the income from the rent is helping to pay off the mortgage, so it is definitely a viable idea financially."

Roz paid pounds 80,000 for her house, but does not have to pay any rent. Elsewhere in Leeds, Roz could expect to pay around pounds 42 per week for a room in a similar house, pounds 44 per week for a university-owned flat, or around pounds 60 per week (including food) for a place in the halls of residence.

William Pavia, 20, from Haslemere in Surrey, is in the second year of a history degree at Lincoln College, Oxford. He is living in halls of residence.

"During the first year, everyone lives in hall; it's sort of mandatory. My room was unique because it was split in two, with a bedroom on one side of the corridor, and a study on the other.

"The room I'm moving into this year is a bit better - it's in a Tudor building above a pub. The cleaners insist on cleaning your room once every two days, which means that you feel compelled to keep it reasonably tidy.

"The best - and worst - thing about living in college is the food. We get fed three times a day, with a three-course meal every evening. The problem is, we have to eat breakfast at 8am; and who's going to get up at eight - except scientists, of course!

"You can also get too close to people, with the inevitable sex triangles developing."

William pays around pounds 78 per week for his bedroom and study. This includes not only accommodation and bills, but also food. A room in a house-share in Oxford would cost around pounds 70 per week. Living as a lodger would cost around pounds 50 to pounds 65 self catering, while a small modern house in the area would cost a minimum of pounds 120,000, and up to pounds 160,000.

Ian Belcher, 20, from Potton, near Biggleswade, is a fourth-year maths student at Warwick University. He is sharing a house with friends.

"Most students move into houses in their second year at Warwick, and for the past year I've been living in a small, three-bedroomed terrace with a group of friends - the same place I'm going back to this year.

"It's about three miles from the university, which isn't too far, and I can cycle in to lectures every day. There's also a good bus service, which goes about every 15 minutes.

"I prefer living in a house to staying in halls. Working on campus was quite hard, because it often gets noisy at night, especially in the first year. Also, you rarely leave the university, and because you are on the same site it can feel like you've never had a break. One of the other advantages is that we can leave our stuff in the house over the holidays."

Ian pays pounds 45 per week in rent, and around pounds 90 per quarter on bills. Hall costs at Warwick University start from pounds 41.45 for self catering, and Ian could expect to pay around pounds 40 per week as a lodger or pounds 50,000 to pounds 60,000 for a small house similar to the one he rents.

Hyungshic Cho, 27, from Seoul, South Korea, is a mature student studying film and video at the London College of Printing. He is living as a lodger in a house in Islington with landlords Pamela and Bob Brass.

"As a mature student, I didn't want to live in halls of residence, because I thought they would be quite noisy. I also like to cook for myself and for friends - and the food in halls is never very good. Working here is quite easy - it's peaceful, and because there are only two lodgers there are few distractions. However, it can get lonely, because most of my friends live in different parts of London. Finding this place was quite simple. Hopefully, I should be able to stay here for the next year."

Hyungshic pays around pounds 70 per week for his room. This includes basic bills such as water and electricity, but not food or telephone. Sharing a house with friends elsewhere in London could cost between pounds 60 and pounds 90 per week, while halls of residence cost from around pounds 60 per week self- catering. Buying a house in Islington is probably not an option. A small house in east London would cost at least pounds 75,000 and a one-bedroom flat pounds 50,000.