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How does uni accommodation work?

Uni life
Published 26 Feb, 2024  ·  13-minute read

There’s a wide range of university accommodation in Brisbane to suit different types of students. We’re here to help you unpack the options.

Whether you’re looking for fully catered accommodation or more independent living arrangements, we’ve put together a complete guide to explain how university accommodation in Brisbane works and help you decide which is the right fit. Find out not only what’s available, but also how and when to apply for uni accommodation, what to bring and what to expect.

Here’s everything you need to know about finding a new home as a uni student.

What is university accommodation?

University accommodation provides a home specifically for students while they’re studying. Many university accommodation providers aim to create a strong sense of community amongst the students living in their building to help with the transition from high school to uni. University accommodation is one of the key places new uni students meet friends and forge connections that will shape their adult lives. So, it’s a pretty important aspect of university life!

Universities in Brisbane offer several student accommodation options, from dormitory-style buildings with shared bathroom and living spaces, to full suites or apartments. Some universities offer on-campus accommodation for added convenience, and some partner with private purpose-built student accommodation to offer inner-city living opportunities.

Brisbane university accommodation can be:

  • fully or partly catered
  • for students from one university or multiple
  • single-sex or mixed
  • affiliated with faiths or churches
  • targeted at international or domestic students (or both).

The options may seem endless and a little overwhelming. But we’re here to help break it down.

Students sitting on bean bags in the sunshine, on the grounds of UQ's Emmanuel College, talking and laughing

On-campus accommodation at UQ St Lucia

There are a wide variety of uni student accommodation options at The University of Queensland’s St Lucia campus.

While these are predominantly for UQ students, some residential colleges do welcome students from other universities in Brisbane.

The community atmosphere at UQ St Lucia really is unrivalled – being part of this campus is one of the best ways to enjoy a full university experience. As St Lucia is its own suburb, everything you need is only a walk away – food outlets, grocery stores, a post office, hairdresser and chemist, to name a few. It’s close enough to the CBD to be a short bus ride away from Brisbane’s bustling night life and arts precincts, but far enough out to offer peaceful riverside walks and plenty of large, green spaces for relaxing or playing sport. As the saying goes, it’s the best of both worlds.

Here are your options for Brisbane student accommodation in St Lucia.

Interested in student accommodation at UQ’s Gatton campus? Discover Gatton’s Halls of Residence.

Off-campus accommodation across Brisbane

There is a variety of off-campus accommodation for university students right across Brisbane, including:

  • private studio apartments
  • rooms in share houses
  • dormitory-style living (mostly private rooms) with students from other universities.

These types of living arrangements often need to be organised independently, though some universities will partner with off-campus student accommodation providers or specific rental agencies and provide assistance to new students looking for this type of housing.

When considering off-campus student accommodation in Brisbane, make sure you check the public transport links available to your university.

A young woman sits at a desk on her laptop in a glass building, smiling at a person sitting opposite her

How to apply for university accommodation

To apply for any of the above student accommodation, first visit the websites and links provided, and check the eligibility criteria. Most student accommodation comes with terms and conditions, so be sure to read these carefully.

For example, students may only be eligible to apply for certain types of accommodation if they're undertaking a full-time study load. If they drop below this study load at any point during their degree, they may break the terms of their lease or boarding agreement.

Applications can be made via the accommodation provider’s website, though some providers may require applicants to inspect the property before submitting an application.

For residential colleges, applicants often need to undergo an interview as part of the application process.

Need help applying for any of UQ’s student accommodation options? Contact our student accommodation experts at – they can arrange a phone call or face-to-face appointment with you if needed.

When to apply for uni accommodation

It’s always a good idea for future university students interested in studying in Brisbane to start looking at uni accommodation in Brisbane as soon as possible, even before they have submitted their QTAC preferences. When you start applying for accommodation largely depends on how competitive it is to secure the type of accommodation you’re interested in, and how confident you are about receiving offers from Brisbane universities.

Always check whether a student accommodation provider charges a non-refundable application fee before applying.

UQ’s residential colleges will begin accepting applications for students starting uni in Semester 1 2025, well before the main round of university offers are released. Check the individual college website to find details on how early you can apply. 

For example, some of UQ’s residential colleges may start taking applications in March of 2024 to secure rooms for 2025. This is well before main round university offers are released in January 2025. So, future university students may be applying for a place at a residential college before knowing for sure if they will be studying at a Brisbane university. In this case, the residential college may present them with a conditional offer – they'll have a place at the college, on the condition that they receive and accept an offer to study at a partner university.

Students walk across grass courtyard chatting, with UQ's Grace College, a dormitory-style brown brick building, in the background

UQ also offers a guaranteed accommodation scheme for commencing students from areas outside of Brisbane. This is to help ease the stress of moving for study. When applying for guaranteed accommodation, applicants can nominate their top preferences out of a list of off-campus purpose-built student living and on-campus residential colleges. If the application is successful, the recipient is guaranteed accommodation for a set period of time (dependent upon the provider) and will be considered first for their preferred accommodation, subject to availability. 

Learn more about guaranteed accommodation at UQ

Hesitant to apply for accommodation before receiving a university offer? Try to organise living arrangements as soon as possible once an offer has been received and accepted. January and February can be very competitive times to look for private rentals in Brisbane. The sooner accommodation is organised, the better.

Visit the QTAC website to view key dates for Queensland university offer rounds.

How to pay for uni accommodation

Like all living costs, university accommodation boarding fees or rent will need to be carefully factored into a student’s budget. But there are several ways to minimise expenses and receive financial assistance for student accommodation.

  • Most of UQ’s residential colleges offer a payment plan option for boarding expenses, so fees for the entire year or semester don’t need to be paid in one lump sum.
  • UQ offers a wide range of accommodation scholarships, some of which not only cover rent or board, but also help out with living and study expenses and relocation costs.

Browse UQ’s accommodation scholarships

  • Centrelink offers a range of financial assistance programs for students, which can include rent assistance and financial help for young people relocating to attend university.
  • The Department of Housing offers Bond Loans to help private renters pay for their bond, which can be a high upfront cost.
  • When considering any accommodation, ask if utilities (water, electricity, gas, internet) are included in the weekly rent. Having a flat rate for these can help with budgeting.
  • The earlier you organise uni accommodation, the more choice you will have. Most student accommodation providers will offer a range of room sizes and configurations that vary in price. The cheaper options can book out quickly, so it’s worth trying to get in early to secure a room at the rate and budget you’re comfortable with.

To find out the specific rates and payment plans available for the uni accommodation we’ve outlined above, visit the student accommodation providers’ websites.

Two students sit on a bench chatting in front of UQ's iconic sandstone buildings

When do you move into uni accommodation?

If you’ve secured a place in on-campus uni accommodation, you’ll typically move in a few weeks before semester starts, just in time to enjoy everything Orientation Week has to offer. For those commencing university in Semester 1 in Brisbane, this is typically in February (though study commencement dates will differ from university to university).

If you’ve arranged accommodation through a purpose-built student living provider or via a private rental property, the dates you can move in will vary. You’ll need to review your contract or lease, and chat to your contact person to arrange a suitable date. Just be sure to give yourself time to settle into your new home, if you can, before jumping into your classes.

What to buy for uni accommodation

New university students moving out of home for the first time may, understandably, not have all the essentials like linen and kitchenware to set up their new life in Brisbane.

The type of accommodation chosen will dictate what needs to be purchased ahead of time for a new room or residence. Always look at the accommodation provider’s website to see what will be provided. If there’s a reverse cycle air conditioner listed in the room, there’s no need to turn up with a space heater and a portable air con – and these items may not be allowed anyway, as they use A LOT of energy. Remember that, in most cases, students will only have one private room that needs to fit all their stuff, so maximising space will be important.

Here are a few essential items that may need to be purchased for uni accommodation:

  • towels, hand towels, facecloths and bathmats
  • bed sheets, pillows, pillowcases, blanket and doona (be sure to check the size and dimensions of your bed!)
  • cup, mug, plate, cutlery and a few food containers (these items can be helpful for students living in fully catered accommodation too – most halls will have a kitchenette for making tea/coffee or preparing snacks)
  • quality power board and/or extension cable (check if there are restrictions on this – electrical items may need to be tested and tagged).

Some UQ residential colleges and UQ residences offer one-off ‘packs’ that can be purchased and will be ready for collection on move-in day. This can include things like sheets, pillows, bath towels, plates and cutlery. It's a convenient add-on for international students and domestic students travelling long distances to Brisbane.

A young woman sits on her bed in a college dorm, reading a study printout

What to bring to uni accommodation

What should students bring from home to their new uni accommodation? Aside from what we’ve outlined above, there are a few essential study and personal items that deserve a space in the suitcase. On that note, however, if things like spare linen and cooking utensils are lying around the home, these can be repurposed rather than purchased to save a few pennies.

We’re not going to list items of clothing to pack – we're pretty sure you’ll have that covered. But here are a few things that often get overlooked or left behind in the rush:

  • university acceptance letter
  • accommodation paperwork
  • ID – driver's licence, passport or proof of age card
  • Medicare card (if you have one)
  • medication and medical prescriptions
  • aspirin, band aids and sunscreen
  • coat hangers
  • spray and wipe
  • headphones or ear plugs (you might need these if you’re a light sleeper).

When considering what to take to uni accommodation, it’s important not to forget the personal items that feel like home too – things like photos, small mementos, fairy lights, cushions and even stuffed toys (don’t laugh – it's common!). These things can help new students settle into their new environment and will be comforting during moments of homesickness.

Living in Brisbane

While searching for uni accommodation needs to involve comparing facilities, thinking about transport and filling out applications, it can also include fun stuff! We’re talking about exploring everything Brisbane has to offer – from exciting festivals to musicals, art galleries, rock climbing, escape rooms, beautiful picnic areas, eclectic restaurants, markets and nightlife. The River City has so much to offer, so why not take a short break from the paperwork and get excited about your new home?

Discover student life in Brisbane

Got more questions about UQ student accommodation? Explore our dedicated website, UQ Living. Here, you can also reach out to our amazing accommodation team, who will assist with any specific enquiries.

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