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Moving to London for a postgraduate degree: a 5-steps guide

If you are planning to move to London for a postgraduate degree, an MBA, or graduate school, you have probably started to think about where to live in London, how much to spend on rent, how to find an apartment, and much more…

If student accommodation is not on your radar, we have a quick guide to help you plan and organise your move into a private rental.

A quick guide to moving to London for a postgraduate degree

1. Your budget

Renting in London is famously expensive – we can confirm. However it doesn’t mean you have to end up in a dorm, or sharing an apartment (and a bathroom!) with 4 other people.

If you are coming for Graduate School, you will want an environment conducive to studying, but also to discovering and enjoying London. So we assume you will not want to be living in London Zone 6, for example. (we tend to talk about London zones as defined by TFL, see here for more information).

Here are some average rents in London zones 1-4:

  • Anything over £1,300 for a decent 1 bedroom property in London.
  • Central locations will, logically, attract a premium – you might be looking at £1,700 -£2,000 (and upwards) for a 1 bedroom apartment (furnished or unfurnished) in Zone 1-2.
  • Rents in London exclude all bills – so you will have to factor in utilities, Internet, taxes, etc.

2. The neighbourhood

Choosing where to live, even if you are coming for a year, or a few years, is key in such a large city as London.

Your budget will be a driver in your decision, as well as how far you want to travel to get your Graduate School.

Head over to our Knowledge Base, where you will find details about dozens of popular neighbourhoods, including some of our favourites.

3. Finding your London home

The good news is, whilst the UK does not have the fantastic US Multiple Listings System, it does have online property platforms, where you will find most of the rental properties available in the market (24/7, great when you are in a different time zone to the UK). So no need to look further than that, or suffer FOMO.

The main online rental property platforms are:

  1. Rightmove
  2. Zoopla

Here are some rental tips before you start your rental search:

  • Furnished properties are not necessarily more expensive than unfurnished ones – if you are planning to arrive with 2 suitcases, that is perfect for you.
  • Don’t be fooled by rent that’s misleadingly advertised as ‘per week’. For example, you’d be forgiven for assuming £300 per week means the monthly rent is £1,200, but you’d be mistaken. To avoid this common mistake, multiply the weekly rate by 52 to calculate the annual total, and divide by 12…easy! That’s a £100 difference you might not have noticed until it was too late.
  • They say the devil is in the detail and this applies to your tenancy agreement. So, go through it with a fine-tooth comb before signing, because its contents will impact your liability.
  • Standard tenancy agreements are 12-months long, so if you are coming for a year or more, this is probably perfect for you.

If all of this is daunting, you can opt for a short-term aparment – it doesn’t come cheap, but comes with far less stringent processes and requirements. Head over here to find one of the main providers in London.

4. Remote or not remote, that is the question!

If travelling to the UK prior to your move sounds difficult or too costly, you are faced with choosing and securing your London home remotely.

The good news is, it is definitely possible:

  • Many, if not most, London rentals can be viewed on video
  • The rental process can generally be completed entirely remotely (except, in some cases, for the signature of the tenancy agreement, but these days most estate agents accept electronic signatures)
  • You do not need a UK bank account before you rent, so no need to panic over this. You can find more information on this topic here.
  • The compulsory Right-to-rent check can currently be completed remotely, although this might change in 2022.

The one thing you will have to come to London for though, is to collect your keys 🙂

5. Arrange everyday essentials

There is a more mundane, but essential side to settling in that must be arranged before you can get stuck into the fun stuff: everyday essentials like utilities, accounts and registrations.

For the bank account, we recommend to start with Wise, which is the quickest and easiest way to open a UK account. Head over here to check them out.

You can download the Guide below, for more information on what sort of fun registrations await you – but nothing impossible, just to reassure you 🙂

6. Get help from the experts (optional)

If you want someone on the ground to help you find and secure your London home, and organise everything for you, we provide a package with a remote home search service, and a settling-in service, designed to manage your entire move, so you can concentrate on the most important for you: your degree!


This article has been revised and republished in March 2022 for accuracy purposes.

Looking to understand the London rental market, and master all the steps required to rent a property?  Buy and download our Guide to Renting in London!

This guide gives you all the detailed information to help you understand renting in London, including:

  • How to decide where to live in London
  • How to find a home to rent
  • How to make a rental offer
  • How deposits work and how much they cost
  • Understanding rental contracts, and how to check your tenancy agreement

Click here for a preview of this fantastic guide!

More info, and Preview of the first pages!
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