Finding the right accommodation is key in setting you up for a good university experience, and it takes a little more organisation if you are going overseas to study.
What are the options?
The types of accommodation are similar to the UK. These include halls of residence, university-run or managed apartments, or renting a room in a flat or a house. Some universities – the University of Otago, the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, and the University of Sydney, for example – also have residential colleges.
What are residential colleges?
These are usually on campus, but managed and run independently of the university – many have historic affiliations to church groups. They tend to be relatively small in terms of the number of students they house, and foster a strong sense of community through academic support groups and lots of sporting, musical and other recreational activities. The majority are fully-catered. Some students love the closeness and the level of support they offer; others find they prefer a little more independence. Please note that if you want to be in a college, you need to research your options – and the application processes involved – early. The colleges are independent entities, and so have their own application processes which are run completely separately from the academic application process. Contact Study Options if you would like advice on applying to a residential college.
I’m going to be an undergraduate student – what sort of housing would you recommend?
We strongly recommend that first year undergraduates opt for some form of university accommodation. Living in halls or university flats is a great way of meeting people.
How would I go about renting a house or a flat privately?
If you would like to get idea of what rental prices are like in a particular city, have a look at Gumtree, which carries free local classified adverts and which has become the go-to site for many young Australians looking for a place to live. Once you’re on the homepage you can click on the site specific to your destination city – Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Gold Coast, Melbourne, Newcastle, Perth, or Tasmania. A similar site for New Zealand is Trade Me NZ.
While this is a great way to get an idea of what to expect, we’d strongly advise that you only organise rental accommodation once you have actually arrived in Australia or New Zealand. There’s usually a huge range of properties, prices and locations available at any time, and it’s impossible to make a properly informed decision unless you’re actually there to check out all-important factors like public transport links, value for money, what the neighbourhood feels like, safety and so on. Just as in the UK, you’ll have to sign a lease or tenancy agreement when you take on a rental property, which is usually for six months. Once signed, these agreements are very difficult to get out of if the house or flat isn’t what you’d expected. So, do the groundwork before you go, but don’t commit!
I’m going to be a postgraduate – what sort of housing would you recommend?
On-campus accommodation in Australia and New Zealand tends to be dominated by undergraduate students. While there are some halls reserved for students doing higher degrees, and others that offer tutor positions to postgraduates, lots of postgraduates prefer to avoid living on-campus and go for private housing. This means getting there a few weeks before term starts and taking temporary accommodation while looking for a place to rent.
When do I need to do all of this?
Make sure you start researching the accommodation options at your chosen universities as early as possible (straight after you submit your applications for admission, ideally) as on-campus housing application deadlines are often early, and places are limited. The best sources of information are the university accommodation service websites, many of which carry online application forms as well as useful advice and contacts. If you’d like to talk through the different options or want some help, please give Study Options a call.
Accommodation Option 1
Fully-catered halls of residence or a room in a residential college
This is a good option if you don’t want to think about buying food or dealing with utility bills when you first get to university. Fully-catered halls can look like an expensive option at first, but remember that hall fees generally include three meals a day, as well as all utility bills. Some also include laundry, internet access, and local phone calls. Each hall will differ – check carefully to see what is and is not included in the price. Generally the full hall fee will need to be paid at the start of each semester in advance, so these costs are also not something you have to manage in a weekly budget. Plus, with all those costs essentially taken care of by one big bill at the start of term, all you’re left to worry about each week are any extra course costs (textbooks, fieldtrips, art materials etc) and spending money for nights out, trips away, and everyday treats like takeaway coffees. Which some students find easier to manage, particularly if this is their first year away from home.
Accommodation Option 2
Self-catered university flats or halls of residence
The disadvantage of fully-catered accommodation is that it doesn’t offer much flexibility. So if you prefer to eat little and often rather than having three hearty meals a day, or you don’t like eating at set mealtimes, you might be better off looking at self-catered housing.
Self-catered hall costs typically also include utility bills, local calls, laundry and so on as above (again check the specifics at each hall) but you will need to allow for food bills in your weekly budget. The amount people spend on food varies hugely, but if you can cook, are happy to shop around for ingredients, and start taking leftovers to uni the next day for lunch, this can work out a less expensive option than fully-catered.
Accommodation Option 3
Renting a room in a house or a flat privately
We don’t recommend this option for first-year undergraduates, but many returning students – and the majority of postgraduates – opt for private rental accommodation to give themselves as much financial flexibility as possible. While private renting may seem to be much the cheapest option, remember that you’ll need to budget for food, utilities, internet and phone, local travel (if living away from campus) and set up for your flat (any missing furniture, linen, kitchen equipment, hire of television or white goods) on top of the weekly rent. Also remember that the lease on private housing is likely to be for 52 weeks, so if you are not intending to stay past the academic year, you might end up paying for housing that you don’t use. The amount of rent you pay will partly be determined by the number of people sharing the property – generally, the more of you there are, the lower the rent.