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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)

Shootingatpigeons Mon 23-Sep-13 10:54:44

DDs friends who were in catered halls, across the universities (including Bristol, Nottingham, Reading, Exeter), all regretted it. The food was allegedly poor and stodgy (no idea if the accusation is valid, they hated school dinners as well, which actually weren't bad and there were always plenty of healthy choices) and they ended up missing most meals and catering for themselves with whatever limited facilities were provided. The only exception were some of the more gormless clueless and insatiably hungry boys. Interestingly her friends at Cambridge where you would expect the social benefits of communal dining to be greatest had a much more flexible system than other universities, and paid a relatively small fixed charge for kitchen facilities and then paid for individual meals, either in the formal dining hall, where you can take guests, or in a more informal buttery where there was more of a cafe type choice.

DD was in a self catered flat in a large hall of self catered flats and had a great time. It was very social and the fact that they were catering for themselves was a factor in that, flat parties, come dine with me, around the world etc., cooking together can forge as many bonds as dining together. It was one of the cheaper self catered halls, older, not en suite. There were some (privately owned) self catered halls that were exorbitantly expensive but that was down to location and swishness, not factors this helicopter parent was going to fork out for, she has shred a flat with the people from her flat and two others ever since.

Actually having an en suite in first year is very poor preparation for the student squalor that awaits in student houses. I have discovered I no longer have the stomach for going anywhere near the loos in her student houses, and I have lived in a part of the world that has some of the worst loos known to man......

UptheChimney Mon 23-Sep-13 11:28:52

I'd love it if students were actually students: roughed it, read books, went to the theatre, went to art galleries, talked till midnight about life art & death ... but as creamteas says

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

I've seen such fussiness even here in this bit of MN, where people are usually pretty sensible -- I recall a thread about a student being given a ground floor room (who knew that was a potential problem?) and other threads where parents have said (even in this thread!) that their children want/need an en suite. Who needs an ensuite??? If there's a diagnosed medical problem where someone genuinely needs quick & private access to a lavatory, then university accommodation offices do give those students priority, but otherwise?

In private, my colleague tries to laugh off the hysterical & crying parents who are referred to his office, and he is brilliant at solving "their" problems when he deals with them, but I know he finds it wearing and dispiriting to think that this is how some students have been parented.

Shootingatpigeons Mon 23-Sep-13 11:51:01

Actually up the chimney the ground floor of the women's block in my halls of residence in the 70s was a bit of a magnet for peeping toms and weirdos, including the man who was found with 9 pairs of knickers on his head coming out of their laundry room......

UptheChimney Mon 23-Sep-13 11:56:21

Yes, I can see that problem, but nowadays most university accommodation offices are aware of those issues of personal safety. Indeed, from stories I hear, the biggest threat to students' safety is themselves or other students doing stupid things. And a resurgence in laddish misogyny in the male student body.

Now there's something for parents to "helicopter" about: insisting that their sons understand that women are actually human beings.

Shootingatpigeons Mon 23-Sep-13 12:16:41

Up the chimmney I couldn't agree more, although sadly it isn't just laddish misogyny, with the girls hapless victims. There was a significant minority at DDs very academic Indy who were only too happy to exploit their bodies and sexuality to get attention. I can sort of understand, though not agree with, parents of boys giving in to the influence of their peers but I certainly couldn't have tolerated my intelligent daughters deciding bimbo was the way to go.

UptheChimney Mon 23-Sep-13 12:27:45

It's a debate for another thread, but I find it harder to condemn the young women for who were only too happy to exploit their bodies and sexuality to get attention in the way I can condemn the young men. I think it's deeply sad that young women learn to use themselves in this way, but there's still such a power imbalance in our culture generally, and they're responding to that.

But I hope that with three years of being exposed to high flying academic women (their peers & their tutors) who don't use external things such as looks/bodies to succeed, these young women will start to see alternatives: university as a dose of good old 1970s consciousness raising ever the optimist

Shootingatpigeons Mon 23-Sep-13 12:45:37

upthechimney Agree an interesting debate for another thread, and my master's diss was all about women finding sources of power in a very patriarchal society. My DDs have certainly been exposed to academic women who don't use external things such as looks/bodies to succeed sigh of relief that no profile pic on Mumsnet grin

Jins Mon 23-Sep-13 14:14:18

DD was in a self catered flat in a large hall of self catered flats and had a great time. It was very social and the fact that they were catering for themselves was a factor in that, flat parties, come dine with me, around the world etc., cooking together can forge as many bonds as dining together.

I absolutely agree with this.

UptheChimney Mon 23-Sep-13 14:14:29


And my DS is grown up and travelling the world, so I'm through the worst, I hope!

BlackMogul Mon 23-Sep-13 23:05:03

At my DDs university, the accommodation without ensuite bathrooms was taken up, cheerily, by students largely from boarding schools.They are used to sharing bathrooms. The rooms and bathrooms were not remotely modernised! They also are also used to institutionalised food so choose catered for the social events. Having said that,I gather the food was significantly inferior to school food. I think the parents just let them get on with it. Some students are capable of living in less than luxurious accommodation and are not fussy eaters either.

sashh Tue 24-Sep-13 10:53:48


£23 a week is for two meals a day not three (at the unis I've been to - 5 in all - long story)

So if your son is missing breakfast that is £3 and a night for an evening meal, which is often served about 6.30, so by 9pm people are phoning for pizzas.

The 39 weeks is to cover Easter and Xmas, not everyone goes home then.

WhitesandsofLuskentyre Wed 25-Sep-13 14:09:51

DD1 had a hissy fit when she didn't get into any of the (en-suite) halls she wanted, until we patiently explained that the amount she was saving in rent would probably feed her for the year. Since she is a big fan of Aldi, it seems she has also managed to budget for alcohol in her weekly shop smile.

Ok, they aren't the plushest halls ever, and the stairwell up to her flat smelt like a municipal car park grin, but the rooms themselves, whilst looking a tad like prison cells, are warm, clean, repainted, and a decent size, with fast internet access.

And she seems to be with some really nice flat mates, so I don't think sharing a bathroom is going to be the drama she imagined (especially given that she's managed to share with her very messy younger sister for years).

I'm surprised to hear the catering is so bad in so many catered halls. When I was at uni in the mid-late 80s our food was fantastic, so loads of us opted for half board. And no lecture ever over-ran tea-time, so you never went hungry.

Too many kids these days are just too entitled/spoiled, that's my view.

Shootingatpigeons Wed 25-Sep-13 14:43:30

We were at an open day yesterday and had to smile when DD did say she wanted en suite (and she coped with a week in DD's student flat this summer and the really shocking communal toilet). However we had a chat about the economics, and how it worked for her older sister and any such illusions of entitlement were cheerfully abandoned.

However I did get the vibe that the uni were making a big thing about providing en suites and making sure all new flats had en suite. Perhaps it is partly parents and students responding to that. Marketing raises expectations. A bit like nuclear proliferation....

I had the privilege in my first year halls back in the 70s of a shared sink, it stopped being a privilege after the umpteenth time of finding the neighbours boyfriends pissing in it, and eventually she too mastered the art............... Now all rooms seem to have a sink.

goinggetstough Wed 25-Sep-13 14:45:10

Food at Bristol was mentioned in a list above as being poor. My DD who is possibly one of the fussiest eaters found it absolutely fine. She found that although the meal times in the evening were early 5.30/630 it did mean she could eat and then go off and train or whatever. She would then probably have a snack later, but wouldn't be ordering out for pizzas! IMO no different to having a snack after lectures and before dinner if the times were later.

Numberlock Wed 25-Sep-13 18:04:55

The fact that parents of students have so many opinions on this matter says it all doesn't it.

BackforGood Wed 25-Sep-13 18:09:13

Well, Numberlock - on a parenting website, it's quite likely to be parents having opinions, isn't it ?
However, I'm only reflecting conversations with ds, but he doesn't come on here.
He'd FAR rather share a bathroom, cater for himself and have far more money on his pocket.

Numberlock Wed 25-Sep-13 18:24:30

You've twisted what I've said. Why do parents worry so much about en-suite/catered/meal wasn't filling bla bla bla.

These are minimum 18 year old offspring! They're at the university of Bath/Bristol/York etc etc not living in the trenches...

BackforGood Wed 25-Sep-13 18:28:08

Parents worry, because, in so many cases, it is they that are expected to find the extra money the "posher" accommodation costs. Fine if there's a choice, but, from this thread, it seems that more and more, there isn't a choice - it's "expensive" or "expensive"

Shootingatpigeons Wed 25-Sep-13 18:41:49

Well hopefully, being "parents" we are guiding and advising our progeny as they make these decisions, their own decisions certainly but it is always useful to have the benefit of all sorts of sources of info and advice when doing so, and it is nice to have the benefit of the experiences of other parents DCs when doing that. I don't propose to give up on this responsible parenting lark just yet.....

Quite apart from the fact that these days unless you get the full gamut of burseries and maintenance grants on top of loans etc chances are we parents are paying for at least some of our progeny's living expenses and some of us are not prepared to pay for unnecessary luxury, whilst others clearly feel it indispensable for their darlings and have a bit of a shock coming when they have to move into the real world....

MirandaWest Wed 25-Sep-13 19:05:03

Surely the amount of en suites is connected with the use of university accommodation for conferences when students aren't there?

Weegiemum Wed 25-Sep-13 19:10:04

I did 4 years at uni (Scotland) of which 2 were in self-catering halls.

I was very popular with my catered for peers!

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Wed 25-Sep-13 20:44:59

numberlock, when I went on to higher ed my parents had no input at all & nor did anybody else's that I knew of

BUT we all got grants - not loans - which were sufficient to live on - rent, food, transport. It was up to us how we managed that money (although I did once have to ask for a sub, when Easter was very late & there was too much term for my grant)(which was £120 for the whole term. tell that to the kids today...)

why does some smug bugger always have to come on threads like this & tell us all off for having an opinion hmm

Numberlock Wed 25-Sep-13 20:57:43

Perhaps I'm a similar age to you (I'm 46) and we went to uni in a similar era?

That makes me a smug bugger how?

TheOneWithTheNicestSmile Wed 25-Sep-13 21:03:22

The fact that parents of students have so many opinions on this matter says it all doesn't it

what does it say?

the implication is that we shouldn't have any opinions? if that isn't what you meant, what did you mean?

Numberlock Wed 25-Sep-13 21:04:34

Oh Jesus Christ, get over yourselves for fretting so much! They've left home!

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