Independent student living starts at home

Some parents buy property for their kids, but halls could be perfect, says Helena Pozniak

One fresher packed his mum back home as soon as she'd made up his student bed "to avoid all the waterworks", but even in the face of wannabe independence it's important to remember that parents can still play a helpful, if discreet, role in settling their child at university. And some advice from veteran parents is comfortingly simple. "I made my daughter a large chocolate cake," says Glynis Kozma, mother of two and author of Leaving Home. "She could share it with the other students in halls – it was a real ice breaker."

But parents can also find themselves stumping up for hefty deposits, wrangling with landlords or even buying a property for their children. Some universities such as Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) positively encourage families to get involved when their child embarks upon a degree. "Our moving-in weekend is as much for the parents as for the new students," says Tracey Paradise, residential support officer. "We always encourage parents to get to know the campus and halls where their child may be staying."

Overriding advice from universities and parents who've already waved off student children is to opt for university halls during the first year. While they're not always the cheapest option, they offer structure, cleanliness, potential friends on tap and, crucially, they spare students from exploitation by suspect landlords. Most applicants who get the A-levels they need automatically receive a place in halls. But if students come through Clearing, all the places may have already been snapped up.

Rooms in halls are usually offered on a first-come, first-served basis, and first-year student Scott McGreal was determined to leave nothing to chance. Confident of getting the grades required to study television production at Bournemouth University, he signed up for a place in private halls in the spring before he arrived and pays £101 a week inclusive of bills for a 42-week term, with an option to extend his let. "I'm a very sociable person," he says at the end of his first year spent in a building housing some 580 other students. "You're not out on a limb at the start. We have our own cleaning rota, and we all have ensuites. It really works."

Halls tend to be self-catered, and those offering meals included – common in collegiate universities – can be costly. "My experience is that students end up buying their own food as they don't like what's on the menu – it can cost substantially more," says Kozma. Catered accommodation can cost more than £200 a week, whereas the cheapest halls can be less than £60, though London is obviously pricier, especially at privately run halls. And when housing is in short supply, as it is in the capital and cities such as Bristol, students are often obliged to share rooms, with mixed results. "My room-mate was a complete geek – a computer scientist who couldn't talk," says one disgruntled London student who eventually moved out.

Some universities do their best to offer places according to student preferences – sociable or noisy, for instance. If and when it goes wrong, most provide support. "We offer emergency out-of-hours support system as well as live-in [student] residential assistants," says Paradise. A mediation service for flat-shares-gone-sour has also proved popular at QMUL. If students are really unhappy, universities might allow them to swap halls – as does Bournemouth.

"We can't make guarantees, but if by November students want to move around, we try and arrange it," says Jon Powell, a student recruitment officer at Bournemouth University.

If first years have no option but to rent privately, they should make the dedicated accommodation site their first port of call. Universities often have long-standing deals with private landlords or manage housing themselves and can shield students from being cheated. Flatmates tend to advertise on university forums, though students are better off sharing within year groups – partying freshers and final-year students don't tend to mix well. Better to visit all properties in person, and not feel rushed into signing up on the spot, say accommodation officers. A word of warning too: be vigilant of scams, warns Barbara Ashcroft, QMUL's housing services manager. "Never transfer holding deposits via Western Union or Moneygram for properties only seen on a website," she says, and if in doubt, refer back to the university. And avoid shared contracts with the landlord, advises Kozma. "Otherwise you might be evicted for a flatmate not paying his or her rent."

A dearth of housing in some areas has seen a growing number of parents actually buying property for their student children. When making this decision, property advisors recommend weighing supply and demand. Student-aged populations are forecast to fall substantially in the next few years, and some institutions say private housing is already plentiful. "The Olympic building boom locally [in east London] will ensure even fiercer competition for landlords and more favourable rent," says Ashford. However, estate agents Savills say London, with nearly 290,000 full-time students and just 60,000 purpose-built student spaces, still has a pronounced shortage of housing and guaranteed long-term rental demand. Housing for Oxbridge universities is also a wise investment, though hard to come by, and cities such as Bristol and Brighton are a safe bet as rental demand is high outside of the student community.

"Don't panic, and don't sign on the spot," says the National Union Of Students, whose website offers advice for students looking into private lets. "Most cities have an over-supply, even if you don't find somewhere in the first day or two."

News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
News
people

Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Convicted art fraudster John Myatt
art

News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Life and Style
fashion

News
The Magna Carta
archaeologyContemporary account of historic signing discovered
News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleFormer Newsnight presenter is being touted for a brand new role
News
The two-year-old said she cut off her fringe because it was getting in her eyes
news

Video: It is the type of thing no parent wants to hear

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Guru Careers: Clinical Sales Exec / Medical Sales Exec / Field Sales

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Clinical Sales Exec / Medica...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game