Student finance: Make sure you're covered

You'll miss that smartphone or laptop if they're gone – so it pays to get them insured

When 20-year-old Chloe Glews arrived from her home in Stourbridge to study at Central St Martins College of Art and Design, she was looking forward to all of the excitement London life could offer. She moved in to a shared flat in a student living complex with a group of friends from her course.

Security at the flat was tight and basic contents insurance was included in the room charge, but it was while she was on a weekend visit to a friend in Nottingham that she was robbed. "I had my phone stolen from my bag on a night out at a club in Nottingham. It was an iPhone 4. I'd just walked into the club, and went straight to the bar. I put the bag on the counter and just turned round and found the bag was unzipped and my ID and phone were missing," says Glews.

The bar manager was sympathetic but told her that there had been a spate of similar thefts in the club. Normally standard contents insurance wouldn't have covered her for the loss, but Glews had been sensible enough to take out an additional policy with that covered high-value personal possessions away from home. After reporting the loss to the police and getting a crime number, Glews telephoned her insurance company, Endsleigh Insurance, the following morning. She says her claims adviser was extremely helpful and with a minimum of formality a cheque for the £400 value of the phone, minus a £10 excess charge, was on its way. "The loss was reported on Easter Saturday and the cheque came through on Tuesday immediately after the bank holiday," says Glews.

Glews paid her premium in instalments of £10 a month, a sum easily budgeted for, unlike the loss of something as vital as a phone. Not all of her friends are so prudent.

"One of my friends, she's never had insurance and she's had four phones lost or stolen. Her dad's very patient. But after the last time, he put his foot down and made her take out insurance," recalls Glews. She adds that few of her contemporaries are aware of the high cost of an iPhone or that such a phone makes them a target for thieves. "If you get it supplied free under a contract you just aren't aware of how expensive it is to replace. Mobile phone companies will offer insurance when you buy so it makes sense to take up that offer," says Glews.

Theft prevention and insurance is something universities take very seriously these days, especially when students bring high-value items such as mobile phones and laptops to their halls of residence. "Insurance is essential, especially in a big city, and we encourage our students to make sure their belongings are covered. Comparison sites are a good way to shop around for the best deal and to find one which fits their needs while watching out for inflated premiums and high excesses," says Mark Crawley, dean of students and director of widening participation and progression at the University of the Arts London, the umbrella body that covers Central St Martins and the major London art and design colleges.

At University of the Arts London, contents insurance is included in the charge for a room at halls of residence and claims can be made through the university. "We have an excellent relationship with our insurers and we can help students settle claims quickly. But if they have any unusually high value kit, like high-end cameras or computers, they can extend their cover when they arrive," adds Crawley.

Prevention and awareness are also important. Goldsmiths, University of London includes information on personal security on its induction material, on its student website, and on the contract students sign when applying to live in halls of residence. "We tell them to lock up before you go out and to always include friends in your travel arrangements so no one's travelling alone at night," says Sue Tarhan, accommodation services manager. Halls are extremely secure with 24-hour security on site and resident assistants working on a rota system to provide care and advice.

Last year, Goldsmiths offered contents insurance as part of its service to students in halls. This covered students' loss of valuables if flats were broken into and flood and fire damage to articles in rooms. Water leaks can easily cause damage. The university's insurance will cover up to £3,000 for the loss of a mobile phone, £2,500 for a computer and up to £600 for a musical instrument, or for jewellery or watches.

Not all claims are as dramatic as a flood, fire or theft. It is important to be covered for everyday accidents, especially for peace of mind. Charlotte Binks was in her second year of a business studies BSc at Coventry University when a late night essay came to an abrupt end.

"It was during the end of year exams and I was working at my desk late at night with a glass of water on the side when my dress caught the edge of the glass and tipped the contents right over my MacBook Pro. It died straightaway," she says. Fortunately she had taken out a top-up policy covering loss or damage to expensive IT and phone equipment.

Following advice from the manufacturer, Binks unplugged the laptop and stood it on its side for the water to drain out before putting it in a warm dry place. It was no use and armed with a report from the Apple Store Binks contacted Endsleigh who paid up immediately.

For students away from home for the first time, taking out insurance is a wise precaution. Though it is fair to say that if you are thinking of taking your rare Stradivarius violin to your student halls of residence, forget it! The premiums alone would probably cancel the hall fees – and then some!

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