University is about getting as far away from your parents as possible, not washing your sheets for months on end and living on a diet of spaghetti bolognese, isn't it? Not necessarily. Students are increasingly opting to live at home – and enjoying the comforts that come with it.
The latest figures from the Higher Education Funding Council for England show that 23 per cent of 18- and 19-year-olds in England and Wales studying full-time for a first degree choose to stay at home in their first year. They are following in the footsteps of students in continental Europe, Northern Ireland and Scotland where it is common to head to a local university. So should you consider staying chez mum and dad?
There is the obvious perk: it is cheaper to stay at home. According to the NUS, last year the average weekly cost for university accommodation was £98.99 – that's not including food, travel, study materials or alcohol. With loans, grants and bursaries on offer, the Government argues that money shouldn't come into your decision to stay at home. But what if your ideal course is on your doorstep?
For Erline Chol, 24, an advertising and marketing student at London Metropolitan University, the course was right, and living at her father's house means she saves money. "I looked into going into halls, but didn't want the burden of paying rent," she says. "I have a part-time job, but I don't have to work crazy hours and I have money left to enjoy myself."
Chol contributes to utility bills, but her father takes care of the rest. She says the benefits outweigh the disadvantages. "OK, so I can't just bring anyone home I like, and sometimes have to leave a night out early, but when I leave university with the money I've saved, I'll have more options than my friends who are in debt."
Living at home also means you don't have to leave your nearest and dearest. Charlotte Smith, 22, spent 18 months at Leeds Metropolitan University before transferring to her local Teesside University, to be closer to her family after a bereavement. "I was struggling to cope in a horrible, smelly student house, and I just wanted to be with my mum," she says. At home, she had the support of her family around her, but it didn't mean an end to her independence. "I'd done my own washing and cooking for years. I think my mum missed me when I wasn't there, because she had to cook for herself!"
But staying at home for emotional reasons is not a decision to be taken lightly. Andrew Williams, 24, lived at home for three years while studying automotive and transport design at Coventry University to be near his friends and then his girlfriend. "It was fine until my friends dropped out and I split up with my girlfriend. Then I wanted to live at uni, and spent most of my third year waking up on my friend's sofa with last night's takeaway." He moved out of home for his fourth year, but says: "In the year I should have been working my hardest, I ended up going out the most, just because I could."
Living at home means you just may have to be prepared for some uncomfortable nights sleeping on friends' floors. It helps if you have a good relationship with your parents. "My parents were really relaxed about me going out, just as long as I didn't wake them up too often," says Williams.
Aaron Porter, president of the NUS, says: "We encourage students who stay at home to make sure they get involved in their students' union through clubs and societies and through the running of the union itself."
Chol is involved with the London Met entrepreneurs society, while Smith volunteers locally, and Williams played on a uni-run football team at Coventry.
So, your local university offers your dream course, you like the idea of saving money, want to stay close to home and are prepared to get involved in student life. If so, living at home could be for you. Just make sure you can tolerate your parents for the year, and vice versa.
'I want to party, but I also need to be fit'
Kristian McPhee, 19, is off to LSE in September and is choosing to live at home with his parents so he can keep up his hobby of parkour – a sort of gymnastics using the urban landscape as the apparatus
When I applied to university, I always had parkour in mind. I wanted to stay in London as it has the right architecture for the sport. The thought of being able to train going to and from lectures is awesome.
I've just spent six months away on a ski season, and have realised that when you live with a lot of people you end up leading a party lifestyle.
I want to party, but I also need to be fit. If I live at home, I can be independent but see my friends when I want to and I can cook my own healthy meals. The way I eat for training is pretty specific.
My parents work a lot, so we won't be under each other's feet. They won't mind if I stay out late, and I have to hope I have generous friends who will put me up.
Moving out would be fun, but, right now, I'm more passionate about keeping up my parkour than getting away from mum and dad.
HOW STUDENTS CAN MAKE LIVING AT HOME WORK
Stay in touch: you'd want to know if one of your parents wasn't coming home, so show the same courtesy.
Help out: your parents are not there to wait on you. Pitch in with the cooking, cleaning and washing, otherwise you might be packed off to halls.
Pay your way: they might not want you to pay rent, but don't take advantage of your family's generosity. Agree what you will contribute – food, bills and so on – and stick to it. If they let you off, that's a bonus.
Get involved: throw yourself into university life. Find out about clubs and societies. From film-making to karate, they are a great way to make friends.
Stick around: don't run off after lectures – go for that post-seminar drink. If it turns into five or six drinks, you will have made some friends.
Find a floor: for those times when you aren't going to get home, make friends with people who are willing to put you up occasionally. But don't outstay your welcome.