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Until 2011 Dunedin students attending the University of Otago were not allowed to apply for rooms in university-owned residential colleges.
In recent years, university accommodation officials have noticed an upsurge in interest from locals wanting to leave home but not go flatting. This year 145 Dunedin-based students will be living in a residential college.
"Dunedin students have always been allowed in the five independent residential colleges affiliated to the university," collegiate life services director James Lindsay said.
"The change in policy was made because it was felt that the unique ‘collegiate experience’ was something that the highest academically able students should be equally considered for, regardless of where their homes are."
Previously, the university preserved the residential colleges for people from outside town as that was where the bulk of the student body came from and they needed guaranteed accommodation.
There are 14 colleges owned by or affiliated to the University of Otago, which offer 3406 beds for undergraduates; Abbey College also offers 78 beds specifically for postgraduate students, the only college in New Zealand which does so.
The number of beds made available has been steadily increased in recent years, which allowed Dunedin-based students greater chance to get a place in a college, Mr Lindsay said.
"The number rose slowly over the first few years as students started to include this as a serious option in their planning, then it picked up."
Demand from outside Dunedin for hall space has remained high, but accommodation officials have been able to match supply with demand.
"It has been overwhelmingly positive as the Dunedin students have local knowledge about the city and the region to share with their new fellow collegians," Mr Lindsay said.
Laura Taylor (18) is one of those 145 Dunedin-based students moving into a residential college — she has chosen Arana.
She will be in familiar company, as several of her former St Hilda’s Collegiate School classmates have also opted for a college over flatting or staying at home.
"Friends of mine who are older have all been to halls and they’ve all said they had such a great experience and said it’s a great way to meet people," Ms Taylor said.
Students doing the same courses and living in the same hall often form study groups, and that was a big motivation for choosing Arana, Ms Taylor said.
An aspiring physiotherapist, Ms Taylor was raring to get on with the next phase of her life.
"I guess it’s that transition between living at home and going in to a flat: you have that support, but you also have a little bit more freedom as you start to grow up a bit more."
The 2018 fees for university-owned colleges, which include meals, are about $14,500.