The important things to take are a kettle, some mugs and maybe wine glasses and a corkscrew

Come the autumn thousands of students will leave home to start life in a new university town. If you are in doubt about how much your child should take with them, remember they are likely to have little space in which to put all their clobber. The question of what to take may be overwhelming, but the literature sent by the university in the summer before the first term should provide all the information needed.

Come the autumn thousands of students will leave home to start life in a new university town. If you are in doubt about how much your child should take with them, remember they are likely to have little space in which to put all their clobber. The question of what to take may be overwhelming, but the literature sent by the university in the summer before the first term should provide all the information needed.

Although jokes about taking everything except the kitchen sink may be flashing through the minds of some parents, one student at Bristol University went so far as to suggest it might be useful to pack a fridge for their room. That's because milk disappears if you leave it in the communal fridge.

Facilities in self-catering accommodation vary. It may be necessary to take saucepans, toaster and kettle, chopping knives and cutlery. Students must remember to bring the washing-up liquid and tea towels but most important of all, they should not leave home without a tin opener.

Even in catered accommodation, having a kettle, mugs, tea and coffee is a good way of breaking the ice with new friends. Your child might want to go one better with wine glasses and a corkscrew or bottle-opener.

In a technical vein, once the hairdryer, desk lamp (it's worthwhile taking an extra lamp) and computer are plugged in, an electrical extension lead will probably be required, although bear in mind that only strip extensions, not block ones, are allowed in some residential buildings. This is because study bedrooms usually have only one or two power points.

Some universities require smart dress within the first few days, so your offspring should check the dress requirements, and because most places run a freshers' ball within the first couple of weeks a dinner jacket or evening wear may be necessary, although most towns have hire companies for this. The university will say whether it is necessary to buy an academic gown.

Freshers should beware of abrupt changes in temperature, especially if travelling North in October.

Another essential is laundry powder and coins for the launderette. Some halls provide a duvet or sheets and this should be clear from the literature.

For students worried about security there is usually at least one desk or cupboard that can be padlocked, but usually only by small-sized padlocks.

Personal security and welfare is a different issue, but one that should be addressed immediately, according to the National Union of Students. Mandy Telford, NUS President, says: "We recommend that when students arrive at university they find out local information such as the numbers of local taxi firms and where the hospital and family planning clinic are." She also stresses the importance of a good bank account with overdraft facilities, and a Young Person's Railcard, which is useful for getting around to see old friends and getting home to get washing done.

The first few weeks can be nerve-wracking for parents as well as students; therefore a telephone charge card may suit both sides.

Johanna Breninckmeyer, 20, who's completed her first year at Edinburgh university, says another fresher essential is passport photos. "You'll need them for the endless administration, and some clubs require photo identification."

Instead of kitting out your child with piles of stationery, it is perhaps worth bearing in mind that pads and pens, among other things, can usually be bought tax-free in the student shop.

By far and away the most important item to take to university is money, cash, wonga. New undergraduates need absolutely wads of it to spend on joining all the clubs they'll never go to and going out with new mates they'll want to ditch when they find their real friends.

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