Starting university can be a difficult time for anyone. Whether we’re returning for final year or coming into university for the first time it can be a highly stressful time. Many of us are being faced with new situations we have never dealt with before such as living away from the family home, balancing a social life with studying, and learning how to manage a budget for the first time.
UK research shows that:
- 60% of students are not aware of their consumer rights;
- 29% of students experience problems with an energy supplier;
- 73% of students feel they are taken advantage of by companies; and
- 66% of students believe that companies make it difficult to complain.
Luckily for us The Consumer Council for Northern Ireland have developed their Student Guide full of handing tips and advice on “How to manage your household bills and get consumer savvy”. While the Student Guide may not solve all the problems we might face at university it is a handy tool to cope with some of the situations we might encounter.
To make it easier for all of you I’ve read through the guide and picked out my top 10 tips for surviving student life.
- When you move into a new property you need to contact the electricity supplier to let hem know they have a new customer at the property. If you do not you may be liable for the previous occupants’ debts on the meter.
- Opening a student bank account may provide you with additional benefits such as discounts, vouchers, and free insurance. While a 0% overdraft can be essential for tricky term time finances – it is still a loan and does need to be repaid eventually.
- Always ask a retailer if they provide a student card discount. Many places from the cinema, restaurants and online retailers offer student discount, but if you don’t ask you don’t get.
- Students between the ages of 16-23 years old are entitled to a yLink discount card which gives a third off Translink services. If you are over 24 years of age and in full time education the 24+ Student Railcard is valid for the academic year. Both the yLink card and the 24+ Student Railcard are available at a yearly cost of £8.
- A TV licence costs £150.50 a year and can be paid in full or the cost can be spread weekly, monthly, or quarterly. You have to have a TV licence to watch or record programmes, including online TV services.
- The tenancy deposit scheme requires your landlord to protect your deposit. It ensures you will get your deposit back when you move out if you have looked after the property. Within 28 days of receiving the deposit, landlords must advise you of how it has been protected.
- Before choosing where to eat out check online to see where might offer student discount. Many restaurants offer early bird menus which cost a lot less. Eating out doesn’t have to break the bank.
- When buying online you have the right to receive any information about additional charges upfront. If “Free UK Delivery” does not include delivery to Northern Ireland, for example, you must be told upfront.
- There are many broadband providers available in Northern Ireland. It is important to check the speed of the providers network in your area before signing any contracts. Ofcom have a free mobile and broadband checker app so you can work out the best network for you.
- If you feel you have been treated unfairly by a retailer or service provider, you have the right to complain. If you are not happy with the response you have gotten from your complaint you can contact Consumerline on 0300 123 6262 or, if your issue is in relation to energy, transport, water or postal issues you can contact The Consumer Council.
Starting a new term at university is never easy for anyone no matter what year of university education they’re going into. The Student Guide may not solve every problem that we encounter during our time at university but there are so many helpful tips on how to make life just a little bit easier. If you are struggling with an issue that isn’t covered by the guide Student Support Services at Ulster University are excellent at providing everything from information and advice to counselling services to students.
If you are interested in reading The Consumer Council’s Student Guide you can download a copy from their website here: http://www.consumercouncil.org.uk/sites/default/files/2018-08/Student_Guide.pdf
For more information about the Student Support Services available to students at Ulster University visit: https://www.ulster.ac.uk/studentsupport/services
Annie-Rose Mulholland is a final year student on the BSc in Communication Management & Public Relations at Ulster University. She can be contacted on: Instagram – bananiepie / Twitter – @bananiepie / LinkedIn- Annie-Rose Mulholland.
 Ombudsman Service, Know Your Rights, 2015