New university students are barely being given time to settle into university before having to begin the process of searching for accommodation for the next year, according to new research by Which? University.
Analysis by the consumer champion found four in 10 first year students (41%) in 2017 had to begin searching for accommodation for the next academic year before the end of their first term at university, and in some instances, within a matter of weeks of starting their course.
A staggering one in four (27%) freshers said they had to begin the often stressful and time-consuming process of searching for their accommodation for the following academic year between September and November of their first academic term.
Which? is urging students not to make rash decisions about accommodation that they might later regret, after four in 10 (39%) first years said they felt “very” or “extremely” pressured to start looking for accommodation when they did, and to secure somewhere quickly.
The Which? University research asked first year students in March this year whether they had started looking for their accommodation for the next academic year, and if so, when.
Half (52%) of first year students began looking for accommodation for the following academic year between October 2017 and January 2018. Just one in five (18%) had not yet started looking for accommodation by March 2018.
The research also found that in regions with smaller university towns and cities, pressure to find somewhere to live for the next academic year was higher.
This was the case in the North East, South West and East Midlands, where first year students were most likely to begin looking for their accommodation for the next year between October and November, just after the start of their first term (45%, 45% and 44%, respectively).
First year students in London were most likely to leave the search for next year’s accommodation until later in the academic year, with 43 per cent not beginning their search until after March 2018, and a further quarter (27%) beginning their search between January 2018 and March 2018.
Similarly, a quarter of first year students in Scotland (25%) and in Northern Ireland (24%) had not yet started looking for accommodation for the next year by March, with a further one in four in both nations not beginning their search until January 2018. First year students in Wales, though, began looking for accommodation earlier in the year, with 44 per cent starting to look between October and November.
The pressure to arrange accommodation so early on in the academic year is an added stress for students who are just settling in to university life, but advice is available to help them with the process.
Which? is advising students arranging accommodation to make sure all those involved in the process are happy with everything before making it legally binding. Many students’ unions offer a contract-checking service to ensure you’re not being ripped off or taken advantage of, and Which? University has a comprehensive guide to finding private off-campus student housing.
Alex Hayman, Which? Managing Director of Public Markets, said:
“Our research shows that first year students are not only having to deal with the stresses of leaving home, managing their finances and adjusting to life at university, but that many of them have the added pressure of needing to look for accommodation within a few weeks of starting their first term.
“As stressful as it might sound, try and remember to not let the pressure get to you. There is plenty of advice and guidance available to students looking for private accommodation for the first time, to help navigate the process and make an informed decision.”
When asked about their experience of finding accommodation, students told Which? University:
- “We started early because things seemed to be going fast. We went to loads of viewings looking to rent a five-bed property but they were either very run down or very expensive. All the middle price/quality housing had gone.” (First year, West Midlands)
- “We started looking at alternative accommodation shortly before the Christmas break as others were starting to sign contracts and we were scared of missing out on the best places.” (First year, West Midlands)
- “I started in December as that’s when the university’s private accommodation page opened. I didn’t start sooner as I didn’t know who to live with but by the time the site opened the properties went within a week […] It very much felt like a race. You have no negotiations with price as there are more students than properties.” (First year, South West)
- “I found it difficult to decide who I was going to live with as at that point (we were told to look early to get the cheap accommodation) as you have only just made some friends and don’t know them that well.” (First year, West Midlands)