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."

Voices
voices
Life and Style
Upright, everything’s all right (to a point): remaining on one’s feet has its health benefits – though in moderation
HealthIf sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
News
newsHad asteroid hit earlier or later in history, the creatures might have survived, say scientists
Arts and Entertainment
Peter Griffin holds forth in The Simpsons Family Guy crossover episode
arts + ents
PROMOTED VIDEO
Sport
Laura Trott with her gold
Commonwealth GamesJust 48 hours earlier cyclist was under the care of a doctor
Arts and Entertainment
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman
arts + entsFilmmaker posted a picture of Israeli actress Gal Gadot on Twitter
News
Bryan had a bracelet given to him by his late father stolen during the raid
people
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Pratt stars in Guardians of the Galaxy
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Pedro Pascal gives a weird look at the camera in the blooper reel
arts + entsPrince Oberyn nearly sets himself on fire with a flaming torch
News
Danny Nickerson, 6, has received 15,000 cards and presents from well-wishers around the world
newsDanny loves to see his name on paper, so his mother put out a request for cards - it went viral
Sport
France striker Loic Remy
sportThe QPR striker flew to Boston earlier in the week to complete deal
News
Orville and Keith Harris. He covered up his condition by getting people to read out scripts to him
People
Arts and Entertainment
Zoe Saldana stars in this summer's big hope Guardians of the Galaxy
filmHollywood's summer blockbusters are no longer money-spinners
Arts and Entertainment
O'Shaughnessy pictured at the Unicorn Theatre in London
tvFiona O'Shaughnessy explains where she ends and her strange and wonderful character begins
Life and Style
Workers in Seattle are paid 100 times as much as workers in Bangladesh
fashionSeattle company lets customers create their own clothes, then click 'buy' and wait for delivery
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Year 5 Teacher

£21000 - £32000 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: KS2 Teacher Would yo...

Teacher

£100 - £120 per day + key stage 1, key stage 2: Randstad Education Chelmsford:...

Learning Support Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: Experienced Learning Sup...

Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a flexible inspira...

Independent Dating
and  

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

Day In a Page

A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried