An American college dormitory room in 2002

A dormitory (originated from the Latin word dormitorium,[1] often abbreviated to dorm), also known as a hall of residence or a residence hall (often abbreviated to halls), is a building primarily providing sleeping and residential quarters for large numbers of people such as boarding school, high school, college or university students. In some countries, it can also refer to a room containing several beds accommodating people.


Broward Hall at the University of Florida in the 1960s

Dormitory is sometimes abbreviated to "dorm".[2] In the UK, the word dormitory means a room (rather than a building) containing several beds accommodating unrelated people.[3] This arrangement exists typically for pupils at boarding schools, travellers and military personnel, but is almost entirely unknown for university students. Student housing is normally referred to as "halls"[4] or "halls of residence",[5] or "colleges" in universities with residential colleges. A building providing sleeping and residential quarters for large numbers of people may also be called a house (members of a religious community or pupils at a boarding school[6]), hostel (students, workers or travellers) or barracks (military personnel).

In English-speaking Canada, the common term is "residence" or "res" for short.[citation needed] At colleges and universities in the US, the term "residence hall" is often used instead of "dormitory".[citation needed] In Australia the terms "halls of residence" and "halls" are common, but "college" (or, more formally, "residential college") is also used in the cases of halls of residence that are named as such (e.g., Robert Menzies College, Trinity College and Mannix College).[citation needed]

College and university residences

United States

Aerial view of Bancroft Hall at the US Naval academy, said to be the largest dormitory building in the US
Residential suites at Cal Poly Pomona

In the early colonial colleges, residence was often provided for students within the main college building, such as the Wren Building at the William & Mary (1705) and Nassau Hall at Princeton (1756); these went on to inspire other "Old Main" buildings, combining academic functions with accommodation. The first primarily residential building was the Harvard Indian College (1650), which also contained a printing press, while the first exclusively residential building was Stoughton Hall (1698), also at Harvard.[7]

Most colleges and universities provide single or multiple occupancy rooms for their students, usually at a cost. These buildings consist of many such rooms, like an apartment building. The largest dormitory building in the US is said to be Bancroft Hall at the United States Naval Academy,[8] housing 4,400 midshipmen in 1,700 multiple occupancy rooms.[9]

Many colleges and universities no longer use the word "dormitory" and staff are now using the term residence hall (analogous to the United Kingdom "hall of residence") or simply "hall" instead. Outside academia however, the word "dorm" or "dormitory" is commonly used without negative connotations. Indeed, the words are used regularly in the marketplace as well as routinely in advertising.

Typically, a United States residence hall room holds two students with no toilet. This is usually referred to as a "double". Often, residence halls have communal bathroom facilities. In the United States, residence halls are sometimes segregated by sex, with men living in one group of rooms, and women in another. Some dormitory complexes are single-sex with varying limits on visits by persons of each sex. For example, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana has a long history of parietals, or mixed visiting hours. Most colleges and universities offer coeducational dorms, where either men or women reside on separate floors but in the same building or where both sexes share a floor but with individual rooms being single-sex. In the early 2000s, dorms that allowed people of opposite sexes to share a room became available in some public universities.[10] Some colleges and university coeducational dormitories also feature coeducational bathrooms.[11] Many newer residence halls offer single rooms as well as private bathrooms, or suite-style rooms.

Most residence halls are much closer to campus than comparable private housing such as apartment buildings. This convenience is a major factor in the choice of where to live since living physically closer to classrooms is often preferred, particularly for first-year students who may not be permitted to park vehicles on campus. Universities may therefore provide priority to first-year students when allocating this accommodation.

United Kingdom

Aberdare Hall at Cardiff University, built in 1895, one of the few remaining single-sex halls of residence in the UK
Chapter Spitalfields, a private hall of residence in London, England, was the tallest student accommodation building in the world when completed in 2010

Until the mid 19th century, students at residential universities in England lived in colleges, where they rented a set of unfurnished rooms, paid their own servants, and bought their own meals. The first change from this came with the foundation of Bishop Hatfield's Hall (now Hatfield College) by David Melville at Durham University in 1846. This introduced three key concepts: rooms would be let furnished, all meals would be taken communally, and all expenses would be reasonable and fixed in advance, which combined to make the cost of accommodation in the hall much lower than in colleges. Melville also introduced single room study-bedrooms and, in 1849, opened the first purpose-built hall of residence in the country at Hatfield.[12][13][14] The Oxford University Commission of 1852 found that "The success that has attended Mr. Melville's labours in Hatfield Hall at Durham is regarded as a conclusive argument for imitating that institution in Oxford";[15] this report led to a requirement in the Oxford University Act 1854 that Oxford allow the establishment of private halls, although these halls were never very successful.[16]

The 19th century London colleges were originally non-residential. King's College London established a hall for theological students in a house adjacent to the college in 1847, although this only lasted until 1858.[17] University Hall was opened in 1849 by a group of mainly Unitarian Dissenters for students at University College London. This also struggled until taken over by Manchester New College in 1881, after which it flourished for a period but was subsequently closed when that college moved to Oxford in 1890.[18] Bedford College, London, at the time the only women's college in Britain, opened a residence in 1860.[19] College Hall, London was established in 1882 for women students at University College London (which had become mixed a few years earlier) and the London School of Medicine for Women. Like the other London halls (with the exception of the Bedford College residence) this was initially private, but was taken over by the University of London in 1910.[20]

The provincial university colleges that became the redbrick universities were established as non-residential institutions in the 19th century, but later became the universities most closely associated with the development of halls of residence (as distinct from the residential colleges of the older universities). William Whyte identifies four main drivers for the building of halls of residence in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. These were: firstly, for philanthropic reasons (often linked to religion), such as the Anglican St Anselm Hall (1872/1907) and the Quaker Dalton Hall (1881), both at Owens College (now the University of Manchester); secondly, to provide safe accommodation for female undergraduates, who it was felt at that time could not live in lodgings; thirdly, to attract students from more distant parts of the country, particularly for university colleges in smaller urban areas such as Reading, Exeter and Leicester; and fourthly, because residential provision was becoming seen as an essential element of university life, allowing for the development of community.[21]

Most UK universities provide accommodation in halls for first year students who make a firm acceptance of their offer, although this may not extend to students who enter via clearing. Halls accommodation most commonly consists of shared flats, but rooms may also be arranged 'dorm-style' along corridors. Rooms may be en suite or there may be a shared bathroom for the flat or corridor. Halls may be catered, part-catered or self-catered. Most universities offer single-sex flats within halls and there are a few halls (such as Aberdare Hall at Cardiff University) that are entirely single-sex, but others (such as University College London) offer only mixed accommodation.[22][23][24][25] Most university or college-managed halls of residence are covered by Universities UK and Guild HE's accommodation code of practice.[26]

Private halls of residence, also known as purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), are available in many university towns and cities. Many are covered by the Accreditation Network UK Code of Standards for Larger Developments,[a] and housing services at some universities (such as the University of London) will only list accredited PBSAs.[27][28] Many halls are delivered in partnership between educational establishments and private developers, and both codes include the same methodology for defining whether a hall counts as "managed and controlled by an educational establishment", making it a university hall, or is a private hall.[29] Private halls may include facilities such as common rooms, gyms and study spaces.[30][31] Private halls are often the most expensive accommodation option available in university towns.[32] Some of the companies which have developed such accommodation are based offshore, which has led to concerns about tax avoidance and evasion of sanctions on Russian owners.[33][34]

In the 2021/22 academic year, 347,680 (16 per cent) of the UK's 2,185,665 students were living in accommodation maintained by their higher education provider (including 55,380 at universities with residential colleges rather than halls[b]) and 200,895 (nine per cent) were in private-sector halls.[35]


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Dormitory in Karlsruhe, Baden-Württemberg, Germany

In Germany there are dormitories called Studentenwohnheim (plural: Studentenwohnheime). Most Studentenwohnheime are run by the Studentenwerk (an organisation providing social, financial and cultural support services to students in Germany, comparable to student unions in the UK). Some Studentenwohnheime are run by a Catholic or Protestant church. Church-run facilities are sometimes single-sex. Studentenwohnheime may be situated on or off campus. They are usually low cost and serve students with limited budget. Flats may be shared with other students or may be studio-type, with en-suite bathroom and kitchen facilities. The rooms themselves are mostly single occupancy.


In India the dormitories are called "PG housing" or "student hostels". Even though most of the colleges/universities have hostels on-campus, however in most of the cases it is not enough for the total students enrolled.[36] Majority of the students prefer to stay off-campus in PGs and private hostels as they usually have better amenities and services.[37] For example, in 2015 estimated 1.8 lakh (180,000) students enrolled with Delhi University, there are only about 9,000 seats available in its hostels for both undergraduate and postgraduate students. The university admits an average of 54,000 students every year.[38] Which leaves a majority of students to find accommodation off-campus.[39] This has led to a lot of student hostel or student PG chains to be established near Delhi University.[40]


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In France dormitories are called chambres universitaires managed by regional public services called CROUS. They are usually located nearby or inside university campuses but many exceptions occur as universities may be settled within cities. Rooms are usually individual, costing around 300US$ per month with a collective kitchen and often collective bathrooms. Some "university cities" are famous such as the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris.

Hong Kong

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Universities in Hong Kong are modeled on the British education system, with halls consequently being similar to those in the United Kingdom.


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In China, dormitories are called "宿舍" (pinyin: sùshè). Dorms for mainland Chinese students usually have four to six students of the same sex living together in one room, with buildings usually being entirely gender-segregated and sometimes intentionally placed at some distance from each other to make inappropriate fraternization between male and female students more difficult. Sleeping hours may be enforced by cutting electricity at a given time, for instance at midnight.

Chinese students from Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan live separately in their own dorms, as do foreigners. Mainlanders who are fluent in English or any foreign language may live in the foreigner- Hong Kong/Macau/Taiwan dorms, assuming they will be a roommate and participate in the foreign student activities, in order to help people get accustomed to mainland Chinese life. The quality of these dorms is usually better than that of mainland student dorms, with rooms either shared between only two people or completely private for a single student. Sexual decency attitudes are laxer than in mainlander dorms, with males and females sharing the same buildings and sometimes corridors (though not rooms). Students are allowed to bring visitors – including mainlanders – of the opposite sex to their rooms. Guests may or may not be allowed to stay overnight, depending on the rules of the dorm. Electricity is usually available at all hours of the day.

Most dormitories for foreigners are run by the Foreign Students' Education Office (a department providing support services to students in China). They may be on campus or off campus. They are usually low cost and serve students.

Notable halls and complexes

Watterson Towers, Illinois State University
Ikituuri Tower, a 43-meter dormitory building of the Turku Student Village in Nummi, Turku, Finland[41]
Sandburg Halls, University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee
The Sky Plaza in Leeds, England, one of the world's tallest student accommodation blocks

Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey has the largest residence hall system in the United States. 16,429 students live within a myriad of housing options, including apartments, suites and graduate housing. Freshmen are guaranteed on-campus housing to live on the 39,950+ student campus for at least their first year.[42][failed verification]

The Valkendorfs Kollegium at the University of Copenhagen was founded in 1589. Though not as old as some of the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, it is among the oldest dormitories in the world.[citation needed]

The Stone Frigate at Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario was constructed in 1820 to store part of the dismantled fleet from the War of 1812. The former warehouse was converted into a residence and classrooms when the college was established in 1874.[citation needed]

The Turku Student Village in Nummi, Turku has more than 4,700 dormitories, of which 138 are youth hostels.[43] Notable landmarks in the area also include the more than 40-meter-high dormitory tower called Ikituuri, which maintains nearly 100 dormitories.[41] The residents of the entire student village consist mainly of students from the University of Turku, Turku University of Applied Sciences and Åbo Akademi University.

Skyscraper dormitories, termed dormitowers, have included the 93-metre (305 ft) Fenwick Tower at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, built in 1971, the 103-metre (338 ft) Sky Plaza in Leeds, UK, built in 2009, and the 112-metre (367 ft) Chapter Spitalfields in London, built in 2010, all of which held the title of the world's tallest purely student accommodation building when built. Some taller buildings include student accommodation among other uses, including the 132-metre (433 ft) Het Strijkijzer in The Hague, Netherlands, the 143-metre (469 ft) Roosevelt Tower at Roosevelt University in Chicago, and the 144-metre (472 ft) Capri at Marymount Manhattan College in New York.[44] The 33 Beekman Street tower at Pace University in New York, completed in 2015, is also claimed to be the worlds tallest college residence, at 104 metres (340 ft).[45] Altus House in Leeds, UK, built in 2021, is described as the tallest student accommodation building in northern Europe at 116 metres (381 ft).[46]

The Sandburg Halls at University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee consists of four high-rise towers, with the tallest being the northernmost tower reaching 74 metres (243 ft) tall (building), and 146.8 metres (482 ft) (radio antenna).[47] The halls combined have a total housing capacity of 2,700 students.[48] Dobie Center, an off-campus, 27-story private dormitory next to the University of Texas at Austin, stands at 112 metres (367 ft). In addition to being a private residence for students, Dobie also contains a small 2-story mall, restaurants, and specialty stores.[citation needed] Watterson Towers at Illinois State University were among the tallest residence halls in the world when completed. The 28-story complex, which was built in 1967 holds over 2,200 students and its buildings are 91 metres (299 ft) tall.[citation needed]

Hall councils and staffing

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Hall councils

At some institutes, each residence hall has its own hall council. Where they exist, such individual councils are usually part of a larger organization called, variously, residence hall association, resident students' association, or junior common room committee which typically provides funds and oversees the individual building council. In the US, these student-led organizations are typically connected at a national level by the National Association of College and University Residence Halls. Collectively, these hall councils plan social and educational events, and voice student needs to their respective administration.


In the United States, university residence halls are normally staffed by a combination of both students and professional residence life staff. Student staff members, Resident Assistants, or community advisers act as liaisons, counselors, mediators and policy enforcers. The student staff is supervised by a graduate student or a full-time residence life professional, sometimes known as the hall director. Staff members frequently arrange programming activities to help residents learn about social and academic life during their college life.

Connaught Hall, London, a University of London hall of residence

In the United Kingdom, halls often run a similar setup to that in the U.S, although the resident academic responsible for the hall is known by the term of "warden" and may be supported by a team of vice-wardens, sub-wardens or senior-members; forming the SCR (Senior Common Room). These are often students or academic staff at the relevant university/college. Many UK halls also have a JCR (Junior Common Room) committee, usually made up of second year students who stayed in that hall during their first year.

The facilities in the hall are often managed by an individual termed the Bursar. Residence Halls may have housekeeping staff to maintain the cleanliness of common rooms including lobbies, corridors, lounges, and bathrooms. Students are normally required to maintain the cleanliness of their own rooms and private or semi-private bathrooms, where offered.

Other dormitories

A seminary dormitory in Vagharshapat, Armavir Province, Armenia

Military dormitories

At most U.S. military installations, dormitories have replaced barracks. Much new construction includes private bathrooms, but most unaccompanied housing as of 2007 still features bathrooms between pairs of rooms. Traditional communal shower facilities, typically one per floor, are now considered substandard and are being phased out.

U.S. military dormitory accommodations are generally intended for two junior enlisted single personnel per room, although in most cases this is slowly being phased out in favor of single occupancy in accordance with newer Department of Defense standards.

All branches of the U.S. military except the Air Force still refer to these dormitory-style accommodations as "barracks".[citation needed] The Air Force, in contrast, refers to all unaccompanied housing as "dormitories", including open-bay barracks used for basic training that house dozens per room, as well as unaccompanied housing for senior ranking personnel, which resemble apartments and are only found in a select number of overseas locations.

Sleeping dormitories

In the US, China, UK, Ireland and Canada, a dormitory may be a room containing more than one bed. Examples are found in British boarding schools and many rooming houses such as hostels. CADs, or cold-air dormitories, are found in multi-level rooming houses such as fraternities, sororities, and cooperative houses. In CADs and in hostels, the room typically has very few furnishings except for beds. Such rooms can contain anywhere from three to 50 beds (though such very large dormitories are rare except perhaps as military barracks). Such rooms provide little or no privacy for the residents, and very limited storage for personal items in or near the beds. Cold-air dorms get their names from the common practice of keeping the windows open year-round, even in winter. The practice emerged based on the theory that circulation and cold air minimizes the spread of disease. Some communal bedrooms keep the name cold-air dorms or cold dorms despite having modern heating or cooling.[49][50]

Company dormitories

Dormitory of Nanjing Shanghai Meishan Company in China

While the practice of housing employees in company-owned dormitories has dwindled, several companies continue this practice in the U.S. and other countries.

Cast members in the Disney College Program at the Walt Disney World Resort have the opportunity to meet and live with other cast members within their housing complexes in Lake Buena Vista, FL.[51] In the Netherlands, the law forbids companies to offer housing to their employees, because the government wants to prevent people who have just lost their job adding to their stressful situation by having to search for new housing. In Japan, many of the larger companies as well as some of the ministries still offer to their newly graduated freshmen a room in a dormitory. A room in such a dormitory often comes with a communal cook (for the men) or rooms with furnished kitchen blocks (for the women). Usually the employees pay a very small amount of money to enable the men (especially) to save money to buy a house when they get married.

Prison dormitories

Housing units in prisons that house more than the one or two inmates normally held in cells are referred to as "dormitories" as well. Housing arrangements can vary widely. In some cases, dormitories in low-security prisons may almost resemble their academic counterparts, with the obvious differences of being locked at night, being administered by jailers, and subject to stricter institutional rules and fewer amenities. In other institutions, dormitories may be large rooms, often converted from other purposes such as gymnasiums in response to overcrowding, in which hundreds of prisoners have bunks and lockers.

Boarding school dormitories

Dormitory at The Armidale School, New South Wales, 1898
High school dormitory in Sabah, Malaysia

Boarding schools generally have dormitories as resident halls at least for junior or younger children around age 4 to 9 years of age. In classic British boarding schools these typically have bunk beds that have traditionally come to be associated with boarding schools. The Department for Children, Schools and Families, in conjunction with the Department of Health of the United Kingdom, has prescribed guidelines for dormitories in boarding schools. These regulations come under what is called as the National Boarding Standards.[52]

The National Boarding Standards has prescribed minimum floor area or living space required for each student and other aspects of basic facilities. The minimum floor area of a dormitory accommodating two or more students is defined as the number of students sleeping in the dormitory multiplied by 4.2 m2, plus 1.2 m2.[52] A minimum distance of 0.9 m should also be maintained between any two beds in a dormitory, bedroom or cubicle.[52] In case students are provided with a cubicle, then each student must be provided with a window and a floor area of 5.0 m2 at the least.[52] A bedroom for a single student should be at least of floor area of 6.0 m2.[52] Boarding schools must provide a total floor area of at least 2.3 m2 living accommodation for every boarder.[52] This should also be incorporated with at least one bathtub or shower for every ten students.[52] These are some of the few guidelines set by the department amongst many others. It could probably be observed that not all boarding schools around the world meet these minimum basic standards, despite their apparent appeal.

Floating dormitories

Main article: Dormitory ship

A floating dormitory is a water-borne vessel that provides, as its primary function, living quarters for students enrolled at an educational institution. A floating dormitory functions as a conventional land-based dormitory in all respects except that the living quarters are aboard a floating vessel. A floating dormitory is most often moored in place near the host educational facility and is not used for water transport. Dormitory ships may also refer to vessels that provide water-borne housing in support of non-academic enterprises such as off-shore oil drilling operations. Other vessels containing living quarters for students as ancillary support to the vessel's primary function – such as for providing maritime or other training given aboard the vessel – are more appropriately categorized as training ships.

Notable among floating dormitories is SS Stevens, a 473-foot, 14,893-ton ship operated by Stevens Institute of Technology, a technological university, in Hoboken, New Jersey. From 1968 to 1975, Stevens served as the floating dormitory for as many as 150 students of the institute.

See also


  1. ^ The code defines a larger development as "a development where more than 15 students live in one building in rooms off a central corridor, in cluster flats, or in self-contained flats"
  2. ^ The universities with residential colleges rather than halls are Cambridge, Durham, Kent, Lancaster, Oxford and York


  1. ^ "Dormitory, n. and adj., originally a sleeping chamber, especially a room containing many beds where monks, teachers and students sleep (1485), in American usage a residence hall at a university or college (1865). From the Latin dormitorium." Archived 2014-12-30 at the Wayback Machine, Retrieved 26 September 2014
  2. ^ "Dorm". Collins Dictionary. Retrieved 20 December 2023.
  3. ^ "dormitory - definition of dormitory in English | Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Archived from the original on September 25, 2016. Retrieved 2017-04-26.
  4. ^ "Hall". Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved 20 December 2023. a college or university building where students live
  5. ^ "Hall of residence". Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved 20 December 2023. a college building where students live
  6. ^ "house - definition of house in English | Oxford Dictionaries (definition 3)". Oxford Dictionaries | English. Archived from the original on April 27, 2017. Retrieved 2017-04-26.
  7. ^ Mary R. Springer (Spring 2020). "Review of Living on Campus: An Architectural History of the American Dormitory, by Carla Yanni". Panorama: Journal of the Association of Historians of American Art. 6 (1). doi:10.24926/24716839.10010.
  8. ^ "U.S. Naval Academy, Bancroft Hall, Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, MD". Library of Congress. Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  9. ^ "Bancroft Hall (Dorms)". Navy Lacrosse Camp. Retrieved 29 December 2023.
  10. ^ "In student housing, is the coed room the wave of the future?". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 2002-02-26.
  11. ^ "Considering Unisex Bathrooms in College Decision". The New York Times. 2010-04-18.
  12. ^ "Building renamed in founder's honour". The Northern Echo. 7 May 2005.
  13. ^ "Hatfield College". Durham World Heritage Site. 15 December 2023. University Accommodation: The First or Among the First.
  14. ^ "History of Hatfield" (PDF). Durham University. pp. 1, 5. Retrieved 15 December 2023.
  15. ^ Report of Her Majesty's Commissioners Appointed to Inquire Into the State, Discipline, Studies, and Revenues of the University and Colleges of Oxford. HMSO. 1852. p. 41.
  16. ^ L. W. B. Brockliss (15 April 2016). The University of Oxford: A History. Oxford University Press. pp. 353, 369, 370. ISBN 978-0-19-101730-8.
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  29. ^ Annex A of the UUK/Guild HE code; Annex 1 of the ANUK code
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  33. ^ Hilary Osborne; Caelainn Barr (28 May 2018). "Revealed: the developers cashing in on privatisation of student housing". The Guardian.
  34. ^ Jim Armitage (27 February 2022). "Feeble property rules keep Russian owners' identities in the shadows". The Times.
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