Take Cover

Make sure your valuables are insured - otherwise you could soon be shelling out for replacements
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The Independent Online

"Better safe than sorry." "A stitch in time saves nine." Do these clichés sound like the kind of lifestyle you would expect students to be living? Insurance may not sound like the most radical way of spending your precious, few-and-far-between pennies, but if you're going to be leaving home and setting up in a new town or city it could save you (and your parents) a fortune.

"Better safe than sorry." "A stitch in time saves nine." Do these clichés sound like the kind of lifestyle you would expect students to be living? Insurance may not sound like the most radical way of spending your precious, few-and-far-between pennies, but if you're going to be leaving home and setting up in a new town or city it could save you (and your parents) a fortune.

To begin with, there is crime. It's worth getting used to the idea that students are more vulnerable than most to petty crime. With limited resources, students tend to rent accommodation in cheaper areas of town with higher crime rates. And there is still the belief that most students have it easy and have loads of money - meaning they'll have more of it to steal.

It may be blatantly unfair, but the figures bear this out. Last summer, a survey by Cardiff police showed that 75 per cent of the burglaries committed in the city took place in the Cathays district: which just happens to be the student home mecca.

You may think that you're willing to risk your £30 CD player and your entire CD collection (of five CDs!). But is a computer, for example, worth risking? Of course not. But before you go rushing into the first insurance office you can find, the first thing you need to do is check your parents' home insurance policy, and see just how much that covers.

John Sawyer, of Royal & SunAlliance, outlines his company's policy: "We provide automatic free cover for students when their permanent address remains at their parents' house. There is no reason why existing home contents policies cannot cover all a student's requirements."

Not all home insurance covers student needs though, and you should check special clauses, such as "violent entry", and how much of the amount lost or stolen will be replaced. Parents should also check very carefully that they do not lose their no-claims bonus or see their premiums rise.

If home insurance covers you or your son/daughter, perfect! You don't need to spend any extra cash. But, if you want your own insurance, where can you go?

Endsleigh Insurance is the most high-profile student insurance company, as they are partly owned by the National Union of Students and have campus shops at 53 universities. Dominic Cerillo, promotions manager, says: "Due in part to our links with the NUS we feel we understand student needs better than anyone."

This is illustrated by them having a "no forced entry" clause in their contracts. This is especially relevant to first-year students living in halls of residence. If your room is robbed while you've nipped out and left your room unlocked, then Endsleigh policies will not withhold your payment.

But there are other companies with similar policies springing up as the student market grows ever larger. Saxon Direct is a high-profile newcomer with policies starting from £15 a month (as opposed to Endsleigh's £18). It's worth shopping around, and it's parents who are forcing the issue, as they are liable for many of the costs.

The biggest cost of all though are the fees. It's worth noting that 17 per cent of undergraduates fail to finish their course - up to 35 per cent on some courses. At over a grand a year in fees, it's money down the drain as well as bitter disappointment. Saxon Insurance has a policy that covers parents against this. The Uni-Shield Plan protects against almost all eventualities - sickness (including exam stress), accident, pregnancy, prison sentences and even suicide. The only thing it doesn't cover is a simple change of mind.

The plan is specifically targeted at parents, and is only available to over 25s; a recognition of the increasing financial burden they face helping children through higher education.

There's no need to buy every insurance policy in sight - and certainly not the most expensive. But a stitch in time for the start of your higher education career may save many more than nine.

Endsleigh Insurance (0870 6070333); Saxon Direct (0116 264 4618); Association of British Insurers (020 7600 3333)

c.brown@independent.co.uk

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