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Should you go private or choose a uni hall?

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You might have seen the shiny new buildings and be wondering whether to live in private halls next year. But it’s worth bearing in mind that these can be expensive, with gyms and en-suite rooms pushing up the prices providers can charge.

Most first-year students moving away from home will decide whether to live in private housing blocks or halls of residence run by their university.

Cost could be a deciding factor: a report by the National Union of Students (NUS) and Unipol suggested that average prices for en suite rooms in 2018/19 were £145 per week at universities, and just £3 more at private providers. However standard stock in universities was much cheaper than in the private sector: £117 as opposed to £126.

Browsing the different options certainly broadens your choices. In recent years the private halls sector has boomed, with developers building blocks in university towns and cities to cater for the growing number of students, particularly those from overseas.

Richard Ward, head of research at listing platform StuRents, said that most private halls “now come equipped with en-suite rooms, a gym and plenty of communal spaces, while some of the properties at the higher end of the market may even include a spa or a rooftop terrace.”

These additional features are less likely to be available at residences run by universities, which are built to accommodate a wider range of budgets, and in many cases are in older buildings.

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Most students opt for halls in their first year, but some choose a house share, and by the second and third year this is where most students will be living. House shares are usually offered by private landlords, are often converted family homes and come with a lower price tag. Students may face additional costs for bills, while rooms in halls typically include the costs of heating and wifi.

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You might find it cheaper to live in a house share from the outset, though you’ll have a different social experience. StuRents analysed the difference in average prices charged for private residence and those in house-shares. It found the highest premium in Brighton, where the average weekly rent for a private residence is £251 while the average cost of a bedroom in a house share is £125.

In Leeds, students were being asked to pay 86% more for a room in a private purpose-built block, while in Liverpool the premium was just 30%.

In Manchester, which has the second largest student population in the UK after London, the premium was 74%, with house shares costing an average of just over £100 a week and rooms in private halls costing just under £175.

To illustrate the wide range of prices available, StuRents said that while its listings included a room in an house share in Manchester for £70 a week, in the same city it was possible to pay £504 a week in a purpose-built property.

Cost is a concern for most students. The site said that when students searched for rooms by price, the figures they put in were typically in line with house-share prices rather than those charged for rooms in private halls.