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Catered / self catering Halls at Universities

(81 Posts)
BackforGood Fri 20-Sep-13 21:58:14

Been on my first University open day to day (to take ds, not thinking of going myself wink) and was stunned that to stay in the catered halls they showed us (there were a range of different ones, but just looking at the ones they showed us) cost £5,400 per year, but to stay in the self catered ones only "saved" you £900 at £4500 for the year.

Is this common ? We (and ds) had assumed he would be able to pay considerable less for self-catering, but I can't see the £900 'saving' covering his food for the 39 weeks they said they catered for (which I though odd in itself, as no Universities do as many weeks as schools, but that's another thought altogether).

Anyone mind sharing what they/their dcs are paying, and what they get for that (to be fair, these were en-suite rooms, but not in London or the SE)

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Sun 22-Sep-13 16:12:13

the 39 weeks they said they catered for (which I though odd in itself, as no Universities do as many weeks as schools, but that's another thought altogether).

DS2 is at Sheffield & their accommodation year is even longer - his room contract was for 42 weeks at about £107pw (en-suite but not catered)

He was home for 4 weeks at Christmas & 3 at Easter, & finished early in June when the contract ran until early July, so they made at least £1000 - esp from the last 4 weeks, when the room was empty & they could use it for visiting overseas students.

I was v v v angry about that (but what can you do?)

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Sun 22-Sep-13 16:13:25

(NB he didn't choose en suite but there's not a lot of the other kind available now - which also makes me angry

Anyway he's in a house now - £260 a month!)

BackforGood Sun 22-Sep-13 16:14:10

Yes, I@m learning lots this weekend....

SlowlorisIncognito Sun 22-Sep-13 16:17:52

Does catered cover all meals? I know not all do, some don't give you lunch, for example. Plus you will probably provide your own snacks, tea, coffee and other drinks in catered. Do the catered halls offer somewhere to store this?

Are the self catered and catered halls comparable? Most universities charge more for newer halls, especially if they are ensuite. Do self catered students have more space in the flat to socialise etc?

Self catered is much more flexible, and students won't be wasting money if they decide to have a meal out or a takeaway. Students often eat at odd times when they are studying, and the times of catered meals don't suit this.

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Sun 22-Sep-13 16:27:30

Sheffield term dates - 30 weeks plus Fresher's week

Sheffield rents - 42 weeks

£4,848.06 for en suite
£4,021.92 - £4,324.74 for shared bathroom - but there are only 517 of those rooms vs nearly 4000 of the en suites

licence to print money, innit

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Sun 22-Sep-13 16:28:10

Freshers' blush grin

creamteas Sun 22-Sep-13 16:44:43

My uni has recently upgraded its accommodation to be nearly all en-suite.

They did so because in endless surveys, this is what the (existing) students said they wanted. At the time, many of us pointed out that the extra costs that providing upgraded facilities would be problematic, but they didn't take any notice. (It costs more in maintenance, but also cuts down the amount of rooms you can let within the floor space.

Even though they are seem expensive (100-140pw), our halls don't actually make much of a profit. This is because of the costs of all the welfare support that our halls have. The residence tutor system costs more than most people think.

Naoko Sun 22-Sep-13 17:05:17

When I was an undergrad (which is a few years ago now but I'm still here as a PhD student) I was in self catered. You couldn't have paid me to go catered, the food was bloody awful and I don't imagine it's improved much since. The catered students did have cooking facilities though so they could make their own if they missed a meal, but of course then you're paying extra.

I didn't have an ensuite which I was worried about (I applied for self catered, ensuite, with internet connection which wasn't available in every hall at the time, got sc with internet but shared bathroom) but it was fine. The bathrooms were cleaned professionally and in my halls not shared by that many; my friend's hall was awful - 3 showers, 3 toilets and 3 sinks between 20, but that building has now been knocked down as it was not fit for purpose and I imagine most universities have similarly upgraded their accomodation. Kitchens were also cleaned professionally once a week and yeah, they do get into a bit of a state depending on what your flatmates are like, some are worse than others. I'm a good cook but ended up living off microwave meals for the last term, not because the state of the kitchen was so awful (although it wasn't great) but because I despised the entire miserable lot of them and didn't want to see them for any longer than I absolutely had to.

I would never go catered. It's inflexible with times, you end up wasting food you've paid for, and you can't guarantee it'll be something you actually want to eat. Even my friend in catered halls who couldn't cook to save her life wished she'd gone self catered.

SusuwatariToes Sun 22-Sep-13 17:09:46

In Edinburgh you are not allowed to stay in the catered halls during the holidays so you are paying for fewer weeks. Have you checked if this is the case?

Naoko Sun 22-Sep-13 17:10:57

Oh, as for the term dates - I was on a 42 week contract which meant I didn't have to clear out over Christmas and Easter, and could stay a little past the end of term in June. Some friends weren't. The contracts were cheaper, but it meant you had to clear all your stuff out at Christmas and Easter, which for me would have been impossible (I was traveling home, but home was abroad and I couldn't exactly stuff it all into a Ryanair luggage alloance) and it is an enormous pain in the arse to effectively move house once every 12 weeks. I used my contract fully as well and didn't drop everything and leave the day after my last exam, I hung around and socialised and only moved out a few days before the contract ended. From second year onwards I negotiated with my landlord to be on ordinary 12 month rentals, not the traditional student 9 month ones; I love my parents very much but I'm an adult and I considered that once I'd moved out, I'd moved out. Never left my student town over summer again other than to visit.

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Sun 22-Sep-13 18:51:02

Professional cleaners once a week would go some way towards justifying the high rents. There was no cleaning in DS2's flat, by professional cleaners or anybody else...he & his flatmates were very scuzzy. They did a mad scrub for inspections & that was it for the whole year. (although I did do a white tornado in his bathroom whenever I picked him up)

true that the 42-week contract avoids having to bring everything home, but afaik that generally only applies in the more historic universities where the rooms are used by visitors during vacations? & I'm pretty sure that eg Oxford colleges have storage rooms so you can leave bulky stuff behind.

It wouldn't feel as exploitative if they only charged a 50% retainer for the weeks you weren't there. DS2 stayed on for a week or so after the year-end (he has a part-time job) but the place was deserted.

goinggetstough Sun 22-Sep-13 19:30:23

It does seem unfair to have to pay for the extra weeks but do remember the following year they will be paying rent for 52 weeks! ( a pp poster said they had student tenancies but definitely where my DCs were, the rental period was one year)
Last year a friend's DC had to start his tenancy of a university self catering hall a week BEFORE freshers started!

BlackMogul Sun 22-Sep-13 19:30:28

You may be comparing apples and pears regarding the quality of accommodation in that the price difference is not just food. I think catered is best, particularly if it is within the hall itself as it leads to better integration with others in the whole hall, not just his bit. There are usually social events built around the dining experience too. Also catered halls usually have a kitchen with facilities for coffee, tea, cereals, toast etc within his block so even if they miss breakfast it is not a disaster, as long as they have planned in advance. Also catering is probably not offered for 7 days a week and breakfast may not be a cooked one anyway. Most students supplement hall food at lunchtime if they are choosy.

Jins Sun 22-Sep-13 20:07:36

Thankfully there are no catered halls at DSs uni or we'd have been looking for a private flat share.

I hated catered halls back in the day and couldn't really recommend it to DS.

Rascalls3 Sun 22-Sep-13 20:55:04

My dd loved her catered halls. Chosen as she saw it as the most sociable option. Her corridor went to breakfast and dinner enmasse. They had a small kitchenette with a kettle,microwave etc for lunches. They went onto rent a 7 bed flat in year 2 and took turns to cook the evening meal as they were all used to sitting round the table together. Well worth thre additional cost I think ( around your £5,400 figure)

greyvix Sun 22-Sep-13 21:52:17

3 of my 4 DCs have gone for the catered option, as it is more sociable. Having said that, 2 DDs were really fussy, and didn't each much of the food, but generally there is a small shared kitchen and fridge in the room. Having dropped DS off today- he was too late applying for the ensuite option- I would say think carefully about ensuite. It is a lot more expensive and the rooms are often smaller to accommodate the bathroom. DS will be sharing nice big showers and toilets and it is about £1000 cheaper.
The real advantage with self catering is you don't have to lug all your stuff home at the end of term. Some self catered flats can be really good- if you get on with your flatmates.
On balance, my DCs have been happy with catered accommodation, particularly if lunch is included and you can be flexible where you take it, eg a card system.

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Sun 22-Sep-13 22:15:34

self catering/not lugging stuff home are not mutually exclusive grin

& yes, en suite is very much not worth the extra money but these days you often don't have the choice

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Sun 22-Sep-13 22:20:42

DS2 is my 4th child at uni

DC1 had shared bathroom (all girls)
DC2 had en suite (because a pre-uni partner was being considered)
DC3 had shared bathroom (mixed)
& DC4 asked for shared/mixed but got en suite/single sex

tbf, room sizes were really not that different

basically, these days, you should ask for what you would prefer, but don't expect to get it confused

UptheChimney Sun 22-Sep-13 23:22:39

*My uni has recently upgraded its accommodation to be nearly all en-suite.

They did so because in endless surveys, this is what the (existing) students said they wanted*

And their parents, I might add. Many universities have upgraded accommodation because of complaints and feedback from students and their parents. Indeed, I hear first hand from a friend at another university who oversees the student accommodation office, just how vociferous parental complaints have been over the years.

So current costs are a direct result of listening to students and their parents, I'm afraid.

BackforGood Mon 23-Sep-13 00:31:55

Clearly parents with bigger budgets than us then UptheChimney - a little bit of roughing it was part of the whole college experience, when I were a lad wink

I'm really glad I started this. He probably won't end up at the University we looked at yesterday, but it was just my first experience of rooms, prices, and options, so it's good to hear what other parents, and other students think. smile

Numberlock Mon 23-Sep-13 04:31:24

Jesus, that's depressing if it's true about the parents complaining. They're students! Let them rough it for a bit, what's with all the en-suites etc? We don't have those at home!!!!

creamteas Mon 23-Sep-13 09:14:55

They're students! Let them rough it for a bit

No university can let this happen anymore, because if they did, they would be slated in surveys and then move down the league tables which many MN parents are so keen on

Numberlock Mon 23-Sep-13 09:17:48

Tragic isn't it. Helicopter parenting at it's very worst.

SatinSandals Mon 23-Sep-13 09:53:51

You wonder at what point the parents are actually going to let go.

Numberlock Mon 23-Sep-13 09:55:53


My son has a much better room than he had at home! And for £6000+ a year.


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