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What is the most common type of accommodation for university students?

London | 5 MIN READ

With over 400,000 students in London, accommodation can be a little overwhelming. So here at Dolphin Square, with our years of housing students in central London, we’ve found the most common types of student housing, including what you get and what they cost to rent.

For more information on the whole process check out our essential guide to student accommodation in London.

The most common types of university accommodation

1. University Halls:

Usually owned by the university or institute of study, halls usually come with a regular cleaner, bills and extra security included. There’s usually an RA (Residential Advisor) making sure that rules are being followed. You can speak to them if you have an issue, complaint or question.

Student halls tend to be on or near the campus and are mostly aimed at first-year students. They are usually fully furnished, so you don’t need to worry about bringing a bed or fridge.

You can usually choose catered or self-catered.

Cost: a standard room (including bills) is £135 – £210 per week, while an ensuite room is £130 – £260 per week


  • Living in halls will mean you meet new people in the same boat, mates to explore and study with, living independently for the first time. A lot of people become friends at Uni and stay friends for life.
  • You’re in the heart of the action, so no FOMO!
  • You can choose catered halls if you’re not up for cooking.
  • There are cleaners - which can be lifesaving if all 200 of your neighbours have never lived without a grown-up reminding them to tidy up before!
  • Bills, maintenance and repairs are included.
  • Don’t have to pay council tax


  • Distractions are easily come by - this isn’t that conducive to focussing on study.
  • Prepare for constant noise (and fire alarms) - whether it’s people filling their friend’s ensuite with shaving foam or racing down the hall on wheelie chairs, the prankster antics of halls can be good fun until you have an essay deadline or actually want to get some sleep.
  • It’s difficult to get any alone time - the constant proximity to friends can be great unless you just want to have an evening to yourself.
  • If you’re in catered accommodation and you miss meals then you’re wasting money and then need to spend more on other food, so there’s less freedom to just opt for a takeaway etc.
  • You’re at the mercy of the universe for flatmate selection. This might bring you the best friends you’ll ever have! But then again it might not...

2. Apartments:

Apartments are a mixture of a private apartment and halls of residence. They’re ideal for people who value their space and want to live either alone or with one or two other people. You get your own space, with utility bills and high-speed WiFi included in the cost.

Opting for an apartment can be seen as a more expensive option compared to other types of accommodation, but as costs get split across all the units, you actually end up getting considerably more bang for your buck - especially if your building has additional amenities and services. 

Cost: a studio apartment in London ranges from £140 – £340 per week


  • Plenty of amenities - depending on the provider these could range from a laundry room to a full Moroccan spa
  • Bills and fees are included in the rent. 
  • Furnished to a high standard.
  • Spacious and private.
  • Being part of a shared block, these apartments can have incredible central London locations at a great value.
  • Improved safety and security, for peace of mind and protection of you and your belongings. Some providers, including Dolphin Square, have a 24-hour staffed reception if you have any issues.
  • If your dishwasher stops working there’s a dedicated maintenance team who will come and repair it for you.
  • Providers usually have a team to help you through the rental process.


  • Some apartments don’t offer much room, so make sure you’re opting for somewhere spacious.
  • Living in a block means you might have other people living above and below you, as well as on both sides - if you’re unlucky you might be sandwiched between problematic neighbours!
  • Styling restrictions can be limited, though many providers allow you to add your own decorations - just check what your contract says before you buy any paint!
  • Due to central locations, parking near apartment blocks can be tricky, so if you do have a car make sure to choose somewhere with its own parking.

3. A House Share: 

Most popular with second and third-year students, getting a house share means you can choose your housemates and find the right place together. There’s less support than some other housing options, but a lot of freedom. Get ready for the adventure that is ‘learning independence’ - the reality of how great (and simultaneously rubbish) it is to be in control of your own life...

In some areas popular with students you might find furnished properties with year-long leases starting/ending in the summer holidays. If you’re studying in Central London though, you might have to go further out to find something affordable.

Some lets will come with bills included, this usually means gas, water and electric - make sure to clarify if it covers WiFi.

The quality, size and cost of these houses vary hugely, so it’s a good idea to figure out how many of you will be sharing and where you want to live so that you can start looking early. Websites like Rightmove are a great place to start.

Cost: you’re looking at between £500-900 per person per room per month.


  • Shared living costs - you’re splitting bills between all of you.
  • Shared cleaning, so chores aren’t just up to you.
  • Great for sharing with friends and having parties (depending on your neighbours)


  • Usually located outside of central London.
  •  There is a notorious tendency for some landlords to not take care of the properties properly and to exploit their inexperienced tenants, so be careful and know your rights.
  • Living with a friend can really change your dynamic - not always for the better. Consider housemates carefully.
  • Having your food stolen - people drinking all the milk; there never being any butter even though you keep replacing it - these are the sort of problems that inevitably come up when living in a house share.
  • Shared cleaning - if housemates don’t do their washing up this pro becomes a con and can lead to all sorts of friction, as well as squalor.
  • Financial issues - if other housemates don’t pay their bills it affects all of you.

4. A Room in a Private House:

This is where you rent a room in a shared house, but you don’t already know the other tenants. They might all know each other, or have come to live there in the same way you have.

These houses come in any form - with or without bills included, furnished or unfurnished, and the tenants aren’t necessarily other students, so there might be council tax to consider. 

Cost: as with a house share you’re looking at £500-900 a month for your room.


  • Cheaper than renting a whole house or apartment.
  • Don’t have to worry about the maintenance of the entire property.
  • Wide range to choose from.
  • Potential for making new friends.


  • Compromise on space - there usually are communal areas but unless you get along well with housemates, you might feel most comfortable spending time in you.
  • Some rooms lack security, ie. they may not have a lock on the door.

5. Homestays:

Another less common option is home or family stays. These might best suited to international students visiting from abroad. You live in a vacant room offered by a local family and leases are usually a year or less, but you can discuss this with the family directly.

It might be a family home or a couple whose kids have grown up and moved out, or someone with kids hoping for some childcare - but really it can be anyone who has a spare room. Because of this there’s a big variety available.

Cost: vary wildly, but again £500-£900 a month is a good estimate.


  • You can become part of the family, with home-cooked meals and emotional support potentially available
  • You will experience the local culture and see a different side of the city.
  • You can have a break from other students.
  • Potential flexibility of lease and terms.


  • You don’t live on campus with other students, so may not get the full uni experience.
  • You must respect the families boundaries, including house rules - e.g. you may need to ask permission before inviting friends over.
  • However lovely they are, you might always feel like a guest.

Ready to rock

So there you have it - the most common types of accommodation for university students in London, who they suit, what you get and how much they cost. Now that you’ve got the info, figure out which style you want and start looking early to avoid disappointment, so you can kick back and enjoy studying in London.

If you want to explore the possibility of having your own, great value serviced apartment, book a viewing with Dolphin Square.