King's houses all its undergraduates for the full three or four years of their course. A lot of undergraduate rooms are on the main college site. The rest are in 'hostels' (blocks of student rooms), which are a few minutes' walk from the College.
The undergraduate rooms cover a wide range in terms of size, shape, age, and rent. All have a bed, a desk, a chest of drawers, a wardrobe, bookshelves and a reading lamp. They usually also have an easy chair and a coffee table. Many rooms have the cosiness and interesting shapes and features associated with old buildings. Rooms might look a little spartan when empty, but are comfortable and welcoming once a student’s own things are set out.
Some of our rooms are very old, with the full complement of all the features you would expect: mullioned windows, beautiful views, uneven floors, interesting architectural features, and quite often several flights of stairs to the nearest loo and bathroom! Most have their own washbasin, and some of these are 'sets', that is, two rooms, one a bedroom, the other a sitting-room or study. Our older buildings include Bodley's Court and Spalding Hostel.
On the other hand, some rooms are very modern – such as those in New Garden Hostel, built in 2001. Most of the more recently built rooms have their own bathroom or shower room. All rooms have toilet and bathroom facilities in fairly close proximity as well as some shared kitchens.
Most buildings have either shared kitchens or 'gyp rooms' (rooms where snacks can be prepared). Kitchens are fairly simple, but have fridges and microwaves (some have cookers and ovens, but this depends on an ongoing fire safety review). In general, the hostels off the main College site have larger cooking spaces with full cookers, whereas rooms on the main site only have gyp rooms without cookers. In addition, some bedrooms have their own small fridges.
Some hostels have additional common areas where students can socialise or study. Hostels outside of the main College site have laundry facilities. For rooms in or adjacent to the main College site, there is a large, central laundry room. On the main College site there are also some music practice rooms, a large bicycle storage shed, and a small gym.
When you start as a first year, you are allocated accommodation by the College Accommodation Officer. You will be given a choice over two things: your preferred building and the length of lease. You can also specify if you wish to be guaranteed a room at the lower end of the rent scale. The Accommodation Officer will also take into account any students with special accommodation needs (such as disabled access). For 2020-21, first-year students will be allocated to one of three hostels: the Keynes building, Webb’s Court, and Spalding Hostel. This changes from time to time according to circumstances. You will be living with other students studying a range of subjects.
The Keynes building is on the main site. It is very close to the main college facilities such as the canteen and bar. This building has 96 (en-suite) rooms, most of which are reserved for first-year students. Some rooms have views over Chetwynd Court. The building is equipped with sixteen small gyp rooms (with one gyp to every six bedrooms).
Webb’s Court is also on the main site, adjacent to the Keynes building. The Court is composed of four separate staircases, with a total of 37 (non-en suite) rooms. The staircases are opposite the college Library and close to the laundry, bike shed and gym. Normally these rooms would be occupied by continuing students, but for 2020-21 roughly two-thirds of the rooms will be allocated to first-year students, with the rest going to continuing students. Most rooms will have access to small gyp rooms, but some rooms will not; where a room lacks access to a gyp or kitchen, it will be equipped with a fridge and kettle.
Spalding Hostel is across the road from the main site, only a few minutes’ walk from College, located near the Arts Theatre on Peas Hill. There are over 50 (non-en suite) rooms in the hostel, the vast majority of which will be occupied by first years. There are kitchen facilities in this hostel, rather than small gyp room. Most rooms will have access to one of these kitchens, but some rooms will not; where a room lacks access to a gyp or kitchen, it will be equipped with a fridge and kettle.
Around halfway through the academic year, students choose their rooms for the following year. First-year students are put in a list according to a random ballot. This is the order in which they choose their rooms. The list is then reversed for the next year, so if you get a low ballot position for choosing your second-year room, you will have a very high position for your third year. Third years always choose before second years. Groups of friends can enter the ballot together so that they choose rooms at the same time (helping you to find rooms near one another).
All undergraduate rooms are available on either “short contract” (i.e. a 28/29-week lease, covering term time and a bit either side) or “long contract” (i.e. a 35-week lease, running from October to June minus 2-3 weeks over Christmas). Some rooms are available only on a 29-week lease (because they are used for interview candidates at Christmas, and for school visits and conferences at Easter); other rooms are available for rent either on a 29- or 35-week lease, so students are able to choose which length of contract they prefer.
Rents for rooms are set according to a formula which was jointly written by students and Fellows of the College, and to which students gave their approval. The formula is reviewed every five years, with the last review in 2018. The formula works as follows. Rents at King’s are compared to rents at nine comparator universities in the UK which our students might otherwise have been likely to attend; the rent for the cheapest en-suite room at King’s is set at the same rate (adjusted for inflation) as the median rent for the same kind of room charged the previous year at those nine comparators. Rents at King’s are then organised into six “bands”, ranging from cheapest (band 1) to dearest (band 6). Band 4 is the baseline: this is the rent that is charged for our cheapest en suite, and which is pegged to the median rent charged for a comparable room at the nine comparator universities. The particular rent band that a given room falls into will depend on the facilities it has (size, amenities, desirability, etc.). If a room is judged to be roughly equivalent in quality of our cheapest en suite, then rent for it will be at the baseline. If a room is judged to be superior to our cheapest en suite, then rent for it will be above the baseline. If a room is judged to be inferior, then rent for it will be below the baseline. We guarantee that undergraduate students can choose a room at a low rent band in the ballot if they wish.
All 96 rooms in Keynes are charged at the baseline (i.e. band 4). The rooms in Spalding vary in terms of rent, though the majority of rooms are charged at or below the baseline (i.e. bands 1-4), and a few are charged above it (i.e. band 5). All the rooms in Webb’s Court are charged below the baseline (i.e. bands 2-3).
Students who take out long contract receive a 5% discount on their weekly rent compared to those on short contract, in recognition of the greater number of weeks rent to which they are committed. For undergraduates on short contract, band 4 rent (i.e. the baseline) is £1614.64 per term; the cheapest rent (i.e. band 1) is £1240.34 per term; the most expensive rent (i.e. band 6) is £1864.17 per term. For undergraduates on long contract, band 4 rent (i.e. the baseline) is £1828.05 per term; the cheapest rent (i.e. band 1) is £1398.90 per term; the most expensive rent (i.e. band 6) is £2114.16 per term.
The rent formula delivers a good deal for King’s students. First, our rental prices compare well to rent at other universities. In recent years, King’s has charged roughly the same for its rooms as students are charged for comparable rooms at Manchester, Warwick, and York, despite the fact that cost of living (and thereby the cost of accommodation) is typically much more expensive in Cambridge than in these other cities. Moreover, since our rents are pegged to the median rent at nine comparator universities, this means our rents have to be cheaper than at least four of these other universities: in recent years, this has meant that King’s has charged less for its rooms than students are charged for comparable rooms at places like Bristol, Durham, London Imperial, and UCL. Second, our rental prices compare well to rent at other Cambridge colleges. In 2019-20, for example, the median weekly rent charged to first-year undergraduates at King’s was cheaper than at 17 of the other 29 Cambridge colleges surveyed; and the median annual rent charged across all undergraduate students at King’s was cheaper than at 19 of these other 29 Cambridge colleges.
King's College accommodation is accredited by ANUK.