Choosing student accommodation as a masters student needs careful consideration, so here are some tips you should think about. Almost all masters students will have studied an undergraduate degree before they apply to take a masters. They will know something about life as a university student. But studying a masters or PhD requires you pay extra attention to where and how you will be living for the duration of your degree.

Living in university campus halls

For many international students travelling to the UK for study this could be their first time abroad. Not only do they have to get used to a different culture and lifestyle they also have to apply themselves academically.

Universities help international students get used to living in the UK by providing accommodation options especially for overseas students. They will reassure the student and family with worries about adapting to living in the UK with its different cultural norms.

Choosing to share accommodation on campus as an international masters student is a great way to adapt to the change. Not only will it allow individuals to form friendship groups with like-minded people it will help share the responsibilities of communal living.

Often Masters students will be sharing facilities with students taking a PhD. This means not only will there be other students around who are likely to be linked to the university for a number of years it also means you can learn from them about the opportunities for further research once your course is over.

Rental period

The major advantage of university accommodation for international students is that the rental period will be fixed around the duration of the course. Most Full-Time masters degrees are offered over a full calendar year. The rental contract will be for 50 weeks. By comparison, undergraduate halls are offered for around 40 weeks to fit around the teaching terms. Some universities will be flexible with the rental period if an international student is delayed by travel issues or needs to self-isolate.

When a masters student is not engaged in lectures or tutorials they are expected to be studying and working on assignments. The period over the summer is especially important if the course includes an assignment with work experience for an employer.

Universities will also ensure that important resources are fully accessible. The library, study spaces and food services will be accessible to postgraduate students throughout the duration of their rental.

Deposit and Visa requirements

Universities will make offers to study which will include a request for a deposit. Receipt of this payment is taken as proof that the applicant is genuinely looking to commence a study programme at masters level.

If a UK study visa is required then the student should follow the guidance offered by the university as to the costs and timing for their application. This will also have a bearing on planning for arrival in the UK and an expected date for moving into accommodation.

Making a course application will trigger the sharing of details regarding the range of campus accommodation available to the applicant.

Student Accommodation Facilities

Access to reliable broadband and inclusive energy costs are an important benefit of university accommodation, though this is not exclusive to on campus renting.

The university will offer different options for masters students in terms of catering and room facilities, such as en-suite or shared bathrooms etc. Sharing with the same gender may be an option open to you as well. If cooking is not your thing then catered halls are available for international students.

Some universities will offer studio apartments or double rooms which are more suited to mature students. Options may be available to share with a spouse or partner, subject to visa arrangements.

The university knows that the masters student is going to want to focus primarily on their course. They will prioritise levels of comfort and facilities rather than opportunities to participate in an active social scene. Mixing undergraduate with masters students is avoided wherever possible.

Some universities will guarantee accommodation to international masters students applying for their first year of study. There will be a deadline to take advantage of this offer.

Cost

University accommodation varies a great deal from campus to campus in terms of cost. This is dependent upon location and facilities. All universities set their prices according to the local market conditions. You can pay anything between £140 to £240 per week for the same type of facilities in different parts of the UK.

A more realistic way of budgeting is to compare all the likely living costs in a particular area, and Nat West has been running a survey of student costs by city for around 8 years.

Living in private rented accommodation

When international students receive an offer to study on their masters course the university will include details regarding accommodation on campus.

Alternative sources such as private rental providers will help make the choosing accommodation as a masters student easier. The University compiles lists of private providers. These details are available through the accommodation service.

It is usual for universities to have sufficient first year undergraduate places in halls (or in the local private sector). From the second year onwards, students usually make their own arrangements.

Home students who stay on at their university to complete a masters will have experience of the local private rented accommodation. They can make informed decisions regarding the type of place they want to rent and with whom they might want to share.

The advantage of the private rental sector is the range and variety of properties available. Some UK cities that include a number of university campuses will invest in supporting the private rental sector for the student population. This helps to boost the local economy.

However, a major city such as London will always be more expensive to live in that an equivalent in a different part of the UK. Students should look at a number of different locations to compare living costs. Details such as transport, infrastructure and facilities vary widely from city to city.

Legal Issues

The duration of the private rental agreement is an important consideration, and as mentioned above for a masters student the period of rental is normally a year.

Most full-time students will not pay Council Tax for the duration of their course but bear in mind the rules are different if you are sharing in a property where other renters may be working. Check with the regulations regarding this on the government website.

Regulations govern the terms of short-term letting. It is important that students take advice from the student welfare services that the university offers. Always read and check the details of any contracts issued in advance to avoid disputes.

Private independent halls

Choosing private accommodation offers a third alternative for a masters student. They are bespoke accommodation services in purpose-built blocks serving the needs of a number of university students studying at different colleges.

The main advantage of these is that they are designed to offer an excellent standard of service and comfort for the student, with dedicated support staff on hand to help with any issues.

The standard of facilities is very high, and they can include leisure services as well as being highly secure. They are chosen for their location as well, with proximity to university campuses and frequent sources of transport.

As you would expect the costs of rental reflect the quality of the facility, but when all considerations are weighed up they can present excellent value for money for an intending masters student who might prefer a different level of service.

Providers such as Collegiate work to ensure they meet the expectations of both the student and the place of study.

Alternatives

Many students make their decisions about where to study a masters based on the costs of living locally. Some choose to return home and study at a nearby university.

Living at home to study is not as unusual as it sounds, and with the growth in online masters degree courses this represents a very flexible alternative to the traditional campus masters degree.

Commuting from home to study is also popular, because although the additional time and costs of travel have to be factored into the student’s wellbeing it does offer some benefits from the savings derived from living at home.

Note that many masters degrees now include a period of work experience. This is used as an alternative to submitting a final dissertation. Assessed work-based projects can be an excellent introduction to the UK workplace and these will help if you choose to stay on in the UK for work.

Choosing where you study that offers pathways to potential employment is important. The accommodation you take on should factor this into the choice of location if relevant.

Top Tips

  • Choosing accommodation as a masters student needs careful consideration – don’t leave it to the last minute.
  • Seek out details of university accommodation at the same time that you are looking for your masters course – the two tasks should be tackled side by side.
  • Some universities include a guarantee of an accommodation place if you apply by a certain date.
  • Living on campus offers you a convenient solution but can be a compromise in terms of personal space.
  • Rental Agreements have to take the duration of your course into account. Take note of the current issues regarding quarantine arrangements related to Covid-19.
  • If sharing facilities with housemates is not your thing then take that into account at the start – its much harder to exit out of an agreement when you have already committed to it.
  • Council Tax and Utilities have to be factored into your choices. The costs of living in UK cities can vary a great deal. Generally the bigger the city the more expensive it is but smaller out of the way places can limit your options for study and employment.
  • Independent halls offer a very high standard of secure accommodation.