Brighton has a reputation for being a funky and fun city for young people. If you’ve decided to study here, you may feel the thrill of soon starting your study abroad adventure. But you may also be confused about where to live – and with whom – because being far away from home you want to make sure you have a good place to live and study.
In this post I share with you, from my point of view as a postgraduate student, information and tips on your accommodation options at the University of Sussex. This is based on my own and my friends’ experience of student housing here. I hope you will find these tips helpful.
Before We Get Started…
Before I tell you about the different accommodation options, I’d like to share with you something very important about rent prices. In the UK, rent cost is usually listed ‘per week’. But your monthly rent is not simply 4 x your weekly rent. Here’s how you calculate your total monthly rent:
(Weekly cost x number of weeks per year) : number of months per year = Monthly cost
For example, my accommodation cost is £100 per week, I’d calculate my monthly rent like this:
(£100 x 52 weeks) : 12 months = £433 per month.
Now let’s get started reviewing student accommodation at and around the University of Sussex.
The University of Sussex offers a choice of on-campus accommodation for students. If you are an international student (student from outside of the European Union), you’re in luck because the Housing Office will give you the highest priority when allocating the rooms. This means there’s a very high chance that you’d get allocated one of your options, although maybe not your first.
Here is a review of some of the on-campus accommodation that I’ve visited and seen.
#1 East Slope
Price: £86.82 per week for single room, and £65.50-£75.50 per week for shared room
Who it’s for: Postgraduates and Undergraduates
Some of the Advantages
- This is the cheapest on-campus accommodation you can book.
- I read a lot of reviews saying the housing is dirty. But trust me, it’s more about the tenants’ willingness to clean up their flats.
- The heater is hot enough but not too hot.
- You can be allocated various types of flats in East Slope. My friends got allocated a flat with 2 rooms, a shared kitchen and a bathroom. I assume other postgraduates will also be allocated this kind of flat in East Slopes. In the flat itself, you can either get the bigger room (bed, desk, desk chair, chair, cupboard) or a smaller room (only bed, desk, and chair. Your cupboard is placed in the kitchen area). Whether you pick the bigger or the smaller room, the price is the same (there are other students who would be more than willing to take the room if you don’t). You could also rent the whole flat on your own – of course at a higher price because you’d get two rooms.
Some of the Disadvantages
- The rooms are small, which I like because it means it won’t be troublesome to clean up. But it may be a bit of a problem for people who don’t like being in a small space or who easily feel claustrophobic.
- Undergraduates seem to hold a lot of parties there, so it can get pretty noisy. However, my friends, who are also postgraduates, don’t seem to see it as a problem. Of course you can always go to the library to study there – it’s less than a 10-minute walk.
- There’s no laundrette in the building, so you have to walk to another building (Park Village accommodation) to use their laundrette service (you pay £4 per wash and dry).
- The rooms only have ventilation windows, which are smaller and higher up than regular windows. For me this is a problem because I need to be able to see outside whenever I feel bored or stressed out by studying. My friends who live there don’t think this is a problem. They always take a walk around the campus area (which is very beautiful) whenever they need fresh air.
£96.60 per week for a room in a regular flat
£125.00 per week for a room in a two-bedroom flat
£145.00-£199.00 per week for family flat
Who it’s for: Postgraduates, Undergraduates, students with family
Postgraduates will be allocated a room in a two-bedroom flat – all of my friends live in this type of flat. Hence, I can only give my review of the two-bedroom flats and not the regular flats where there are 12 rooms with one shared kitchen and a shared bathroom. But you can read Marta’s undergraduate guide to student housing at at the University of Sussex for more details.
Some of the Advantages
- This is the second cheapest student accommodation option at the University of Sussex.
- The rooms are a little bit bigger than the rooms in East Slope and all the ones I’ve seen have regular windows.
- Bathrooms are bigger than in East Slope and have a bathtub, not just a shower.
- The heating in the room can be adjusted.
- You share the flat with only one flatmate.
- If you’re bringing over your family, the Park Village family flats are a good option, not least because they’re cheaper than renting a flat privately outside campus. You also don’t need to think about electricity, water, gas, internet and other utility bills as they’re already included in your rent. As your time is very important when you have your family here, living on campus has the big advantage that you won’t be wasting any time taking transportation.
Some of the Disadvantages
- The flats are very, very small. There’s no lounge and the kitchen is very narrow – even two persons can’t cook together (or they could if they don’t mind squeezing).
- There’s no laundrette service inside the flat, but the main campus laundrette service is located in this complex (again, you pay £4 per wash and dry).
- In short, the facilities offered aren’t worth the price you pay for this flat. But it’s the accommodation to choose if you care about avoiding annoying flatmates (because you only have one flatmate).
Price: £131.29 per week
Who it’s for: Postgraduates and Undergraduates
- The rooms are almost the same size as at Park Village.
- There’s a sink inside your room.
- The kitchen is spacious and there is a lounge, too, where the flatmates can hang out.
- One house is for 5 students with 2 shared bathroom.
- The walls and floor are thin, so you can hear people’s steps or talk – though only slightly.
Other On-Campus Accommodation
Lewes Court and Park Houses are for undergraduates only – I don’t have any direct experience with these so I can’t tell you much about them.
Northfield, Stanmer Court and Swanborough are for undergraduates and postgraduates. These are the most expensive on-campus halls – Marta talks about them in her post as she stayed in Swanborough in her first year. If you haven’t yet, make sure to check out her post.
The University of Sussex also provide students with accommodation that’s outside the campus area, located in centre of Brighton. While I can’t pass judgement on the Kings Road accommodation, I can share some information about Abacus and other university-managed flats and houses.
Price: From £151.00 per week
Location: London Road
Who it’s for: Postgraduates
- The rooms are small with a medium-sized bed.
- The rooms are ensuite, meaning each room has its own bathroom and toilet though they’re very small.
- There is a spacious kitchen with a TV.
- The house is located on a road close to the shops, supermarkets and restaurants – so whenever you feel hungry, you can get food or coffee right away! It’s a 20 minute walk to Brighton train station.
- There is a laundrette service in the complex (same price, £4 per wash and dry).
- There’s common room that can be accessed only with your Abacus residents’ card. Based on my friend’s experience, this space is being used by students to gather and to smoke and they make a lot of noise that seems to be annoying the other residents.
Kings Road flats
I can’t really tell you about this place because I haven’t visited this accommodation. But it’s located exactly in front of the beach – to me that would be are very interesting feature!
Price: £109.00-£126.00 per week (on average)
Who it’s for: Postgraduates and Undergraduates
- A big advantage is that you’d be living in a house, not in the dorm or flat.
- A big bed is provided.
- There are fewer housemates, so there’s less risk of noise although it really depends on you and your housemates.
- Washing and drying machine inside the house is free.
- From what I’ve seen, this option is the best one if you’d like to live outside campus in peaceful area without having to worry about paying utility bills as everything is included in the price.
Things to bear in mind when choosing your on-campus accommodation
- If you want to stay in on-campus accommodation, make sure to put down all your preferences when completing the University’s online accommodation application form. This way, if you don’t get your first choice, Housing Services can allocate you a room in another hall that suits your needs.
- The tenancy term is fixed. For postgraduates, the tenancy term usually ends one day after your dissertation deadline. This means you have to start packing while you are working on your dissertation.
- You may have to pay a higher price than what is written on the website. This is what happened to me when I applied for on-campus accommodation. I was allocated a room in a two-bedroom flat at Park Village with the cost of £156 per week for my room (the cost written in the contract was the yearly cost). The University’s justification was that I had a flat with more facilities, but there was no explanation as to what the extra facilities were.
- However, the best thing about on-campus accommodation is the fixed price for the whole year. You don’t need to think about electricity, gas, water, internet and other utility bills – no matter how much you use up.
- University-managed accommodation usually comes with very good heating – not too hot or too cold. As a person from tropical country like me, heating is very important especially during winter because the temperature can get really low. So having a room where I don’t have to worry about turning on the heater whenever cold, especially when I’m studying, is very important.
- You have to buy your own cutlery and cooking utensils. Although, you can get some stuff for free from final year students who are about to leave university. Look out for the give-away events during Freshers’ Week and make sure you arrive on or before Freshers Week!
- The university provides a monthly room cleaning service. However they are very strict about cleanliness and ‘no messiness’ rules. The Housing Service will hold regular checks of the student rooms. If they find any flats in a dirty or messy condition, as in my friend’s experience, they will ask you to pay for additional cleaning services.
- Expect your student accommodation to be noisy to some extent. You will live with hundreds of students in your building. They may or may not have the same daily schedule or study priorities as you. If you live on-campus, you may want to move to the library to study. But also consider that often times it’s hard to find a convenient space to study at the library especially in the daytime during exams or when deadlines are coming up. Finding space to study in the library is easier at night (and the Sussex library opens 24 hours on weekdays).
- Based on what I’ve seen and my friends’ stories, I’d say your accommodation experience will be more determined by who you live with rather than the facilities in your room or hall. For example, my friends in East Slope live more comfortably than my friends in Brighthelm. My friends in East Slope are lucky to either have a nice housemate or the whole flat to themselves. My friends in Brighthelm, on the other hand, had to deal with flatmates who invite other people to live with them illegally and make a lot of noise at night with their partners, or with flatmates who smoke inside the flat. The response from Housing Services and the so-called ‘student advisor’ in dealing with housemate issues has been very slow and disappointing in my friends’ cases (one of my friends chose to move out from Brighthelm in the end).
- Nevertheless, worry not because it is easier to swap rooms than most people would think. The Housing Services office has a long waiting list of students who are ready to take your room in case you don’t want it. All my friends who chose to move out of their place could find a substitute easily – whether at the beginning or in the middle of the year.
- In my experience, it was hard to get enough information and photos about all on-campus accommodation before I’d arrived here to finally take a look myself. My tip is to try and find on social media a student who is currently studying at Sussex or who lives in your potential flat and to ask them for some information.
How to Rent Private Accommodation
The most common type of private accommodation that students choose in Brighton is a house-share with other housemates. Should you choose to live in private accommodation, because the cost of campus accommodation can be high or maybe you’ve applied too late, here a few things to consider.
Where to find a place to rent
The best places to go to for Sussex students are the Sussex Studentpad and University of Sussex House Hunt Facebook Group – both are managed by the Housing Services office. Sussex Studentpad is where you can find a lot of housing advertisement, and then you can use the facebook group to search for roommates.
You may also want to try other website such as spareroom.co.uk and houseshare.com. You can look for accommodation there and you then contact the landlord / housemate(s) so you can view the property. Viewing is one of the services that landlords must provide to the potential tenants in UK – and it’s always free of charge.
How much will it cost
I’ve read that Brighton is the 4th most expensive city in UK, and apparently rent cost here is almost the same as in London. The price ranges from £100 to £170 per week or £390 to £600 depending on the property and room size. Close to the university, location isn’t really a factor in defining the price.
Where are the best locations
For me the best location to live is where I live now, Falmer Village, which is a small village next to campus. I can walk to campus in 20 minutes, so it feels like living on-campus. It’s also a very beautiful village with a pond where you can just hang around and enjoy being out in nature. For me, the close distance, beautiful area, and peaceful community makes it the best place to live. The only problem in this area is that there is no street lighting which was very frustrating at first but I’m used to it now. However, as far as I know there aren’t many houses available for students in this area.
The only areas that students should avoid, I heard, are Moulsecoombe and West Street. These two areas are well-known for their high crime rates. Other local areas beside those are generally fine. However, my friends who live in Moulsecoombe thankfully have not experienced any crime so far.
The main issue I think is transportation. The regular city bus with highest frequency that connects the Sussex campus with Brighton town centre is bus 25 or 25x, so you may want to live in the areas covered by bus 25 or 25x. Other buses that pass through campus are bus 23 and 50 – but with less frequency. You can consult the Brighton and Hove Bus routes for further details. If you think that living close to campus is important, you may want to choose an area that’s at most within a 20 minute bus journey from campus. You can try Google Maps directions (insert Sussex campus as starting point and choose an area as destination) to measure the length of travel.
You may also consider living in Lewes, a small historic county town in the north of Falmer. It has a very friendly atmosphere and very charming surroundings with a castle and hills. The good thing is rent cost is usually cheaper than in Brighton, although it depends on the room and facilities. Lewes is 15 minutes by bus no. 28 and 29 or 5 minutes by train from campus.
You can also get to London by train without transit from this area. However, please bear in mind that train services don’t run 24 hours – and buses 28 and 29 run a limited service, especially on weekends.
What About Bills
Utility bills – like water, electricity, gas and internet – are usually not included in your rent if you live in private accommodation and you have to pay them separately. Don’t underestimate this because utility bills can add up if you don’t control your energy usage. To give you an example from my friend’s house: the utility cost for one house with 5 people is around £175 – £200 per month (so each person pays around £35 – £40 per month). To break it down: each housemate pays about £20 for gas and electricity, £10 for water, and £7 for internet. In the winter months, the electricity bill can be much higher due to the use of heaters, so add extra a little extra for that in your budget.
Should You or Shouldn’t You Rent with a Landlord
I find living with a landlord has some advantages. For example, I didn’t need to buy cutlery or cooking utensils and my rent already includes all utility bills. Also, living with a landlord gives you more freedom to negotiate how long you can stay.
Some people may think that living with a landlord can be rather annoying because of the many rules we student tenants have to follow. Yet, there are also many rules living in a campus dorm or a shared house with other housemates. It all depends on the person. My landlord for example doesn’t give us silly house rules and is very responsive when it comes to resolving any problems in the house.
What About Letting Agents?
I can’t give many comments on this because I didn’t use a letting agent. But letting agents can on the whole be trusted, just use one of the main ones. In my friend’s case, her letting agent was responsible enough to help her find a new place when the heating in the house didn’t work in the autumn. So use a letting agent if you have to. But when you have option of dealing with your landlord directly, why bother using an intermediary that you have to pay fees to?
Council Tax and Guarantors
I haven’t had any experience with either. As a full-time student, you don’t have to pay Council Tax, but if you’re renting privately you need to apply for exemption, otherwise the council authorities will bill you. As for the guarantor, when looking for a place to rent, I didn’t consider any house that asked for a guarantor. As a postgraduate student I’m in UK for for a year only, so I didn’t want to have to deal with this if I could avoid it.
Your Personal Safety
Brighton is generally-speaking a safe city, but we always need to be vigilant, even when inside the university campus. My tips for security is to build a safety mechanism with your roommates, like walking home together at night. If you’re living off campus, speak to your landlord before taking the room about how safe the area is and how well lit the streets are at night.
Every person can have different priorities and preferences when it comes to finding the right place to live. As a postgraduate student who really values personal space, for me Park Village flat-lets would have been the best on-campus accommodation to choose. But since I was keen on saving some money, I chose private accommodation as it was cheaper than on-campus accommodation.
For those who really want on-campus accommodation, make sure you list your preferences and needs as you complete your accommodation application online. If you chose to live in private accommodation instead, go for a place that’s within walking distance to the university or is no more than a 20 minute ride by bus.
Finally, living with a landlord and / or other housemates has its advantages, such as convenience and forming stronger friendships. If like me you happen to live with amazing housemates, it can really make a huge difference to your university experience.
Enjoy the beautiful campus of the University of Sussex and funky Brighton!