Student accommodation is an extremely important part of the uni experience. You’ll be spending more time in halls than you will at uni! Students will usually want to move into halls as early as possible ready for fresher’s week. It’s also great to visit halls in person ahead of moving in to see where you’ll be living, get a feel for the area, the nearest shops, bus routes or other travel routes, the distance to uni, etc.
Coronavirus has prevented accommodation visits for most of the year and this is likely to persist. Always check uni and government advice to see if and when in-person accommodation visits are reopened. It’s hopeful that this will happen before the end of summer, so you may be able to visit your halls ahead of attending your first week at university.
Here are some ideas to help you prep for halls:
Check Virtual Open Days
Since open days are cancelled, many unis are running virtual tours and open days. Most of these cover both the uni campus itself and halls of residence. Virtual tours are not new, they’ve always been there to assist long-distance travellers in seeing uni and halls if they’re unable to attend in-person. You can likely find 360 tours, virtual reality tours and video footage of your halls.
Unis have ramped this up though and are offering all sorts of interactive tour experiences featuring live Q&As and meetings between tutors and students.
Some universities are doing live video tours of both campuses and accommodation. Many of these are taking place on the same dates as open days so keep a close eye on your university’s information and watch for email correspondence and invites to attend virtual tours and meetings.
When it’s Time to Move in
The plans remain for students to move in September and October for main autumn induction. It’s looking likely that this will happen as normal, though it is still an unknown what social distancing restrictions will likely still be in place and how this might affect halls. Both universities and the government understands that halls are a social place where students live in close proximity, often with shared facilities like kitchens and bathrooms. Universities will be taking coronavirus very seriously and hygiene facilities may be fitted to accommodation and halls to encourage handwashing and other activities that reduce the spread of coronavirus.
Registering for a Doctor
One thing many students postpone is registering for a local doctor. This will be far more important this year and it’s encouraged that students should register ahead of arriving in halls to ensure they can make doctor appointments and receive treatment if necessary. Your university will be able to point you in the right direction here, your uni’s student advice centre is the department to look for.
Deadlines, Fees and Cancellations
The usual set up for most unis in the UK is that you make a first and second choice for accommodation, your ideal choice and a backup. Many unis guarantee places to students who ‘firm’ their courses with them.
Some universities are extending their deadlines for accommodation application to cut students some slack and allow them longer to plan. Universities like the University of Manchester and the Univerity of Sheffield are refunding the deposits of students who cancel their place due to coronavirus. It is likely that more unis will follow suit here but always check your uni’s accommodation advice for updated info.
Furthermore, many universities have stated that if there is a delay to when students are contractually allowed to move into halls, they will refund rent payments to that effect.
Enhanced cancellation policies also apply to private halls providers. For example, Unite Students are allowing all students to cancel accommodation bookings at any point before they’ve actually collected keys and had rooms officially allocated.
iQ Student Accommodation similarly is allowing students to cancel any accommodation bookings before the 31st of July.
Will Accommodation be Safe?
Many students are worried about whether or not it will be safe to move into university halls and whether or not they should defer until next year. A deferral is always an option and for students who are very concerned, or suffer from health conditions that increase their risk from coronavirus, this should be carefully considered.
That said, universities all around the country will be going the extra mile to ensure student safety and wellbeing and by September/October, it is highly likely that everything will be much safer than it is now. Stay up to date, stay positive and stay safe.