Do I need a TV licence at university?

Woman watching TV

You’ve packed all your belongings, but have you thought about a TV licence?

If you're thinking about watching any TV at uni, then here's some important information on whether or not you'll need a TV licence.

Do I really need a TV licence?

You'll need a TV licence for watching BBC iPlayer or downloading any BBC show. You'll also need a license if you're going to be watching any live TV or recording live TV to watch at a later date, whether it's through the TV or through a streaming platform. 

This applies to all devices whether you have a TV, computer and tablet or a mobile phone, games console and digital box.

However, you don't need a TV licence for watching pre-recorded videos or DVDs, close-circuit monitoring or watching on-demand services (like All 4 and Netflix) other than BBC iPlayer.

Do I need a licence for uni halls?

If you're living in a university flat under a separate tenancy agreement (this applies to most uni halls) then you'll each need a TV licence for your own room. 

You wouldn't need to buy a licence just to cover a TV in a communal area, as this will be covered by the university's halls of residence licence.

You won’t be covered by your parents’ licence either, unless you only ever use devices that are powered solely by their own internal batteries and aren’t plugged into an aerial or the mains.

If you plan to go home over the summer, you should check if you’re eligible for a refund.

If you live in halls, communal areas are covered by the uni

Paying for a TV licence

There are different prices for colour and black-and-white television licences that are reviewed on a yearly basis. Any increase is effective from midnight on the day of announcement.

The current prices are £53.50 for a black-and-white television license (updated 17 August 2021) and £159 (updated 17 August 2021) for a colour television license. If you are blind (severely sight impaired), you can apply for a 50% concession, so your licence will cost £79.50.

Ways to pay your TV licence

Yearly payment
You can make a single payment by debit or credit card or pay by cheque, postal order or BACS if you make a yearly payment for your TV license. You can also take cash or a debit card to any PayPoint.

Direct debit
You can pay for your first licence in six months at around £26.50 a month, before you start paying for your next one in monthly instalments of £13.25.

You can also make four quarterly payments of around £41 throughout the year, although each payment will also include a £1.25 premium.

TV Licensing payment card
A TV Licensing payment card enables you to pay for your TV Licence in weekly, fortnightly or monthly instalments. 

You can choose between paying online, at any PayPoint or by phone or text once your payments are set up.

TV Licensing savings card
If you already have a licence, a TV Licensing savings card will help you save on your next one.

You can pay a minimum deposit of £2 into an account whenever you want and then they'll take the payment from your balance when your next licence is due.

PayPoint outlet
There are around 29,000 UK PayPoints in newsagents, fuel stations and supermarkets. You can find your nearest one here

PayPoints can be used to make payments (by cash or debit card) on a TV Licensing payment card or to save for your TV licence with their savings card.

Remember to budget for a license fee if you watch live TV

How to save money

A quick and easy way to cut costs is to make sure you're not paying for your licence when you're not at uni over the summer.

You should wait until the beginning of the university year to buy your licence and then claim back the costs of July, August and September at the end of the uni year.

Note: Your TV licence backdates to the beginning of the month when you buy it. So, if you buy your licence on the 30 September then it starts from 1 September.


Visit the TV Licensing refund page to find out how to claim some cash back.

What happens if you get caught without a licence?

TV licence evasion is against the law. You can get a fine of £1,000 (on top of court fees) and receive a criminal record if you're watching live TV without a licence.

However, the court can't take away your TV or order you to pay the licence fee arrears.

Things to note when dealing with TV Licensing

The company Capita monitors TV licence evasion on behalf of TV Licensing. They have lots of investigation officers and send a lot of letters (even if you don't own a TV). There are a few things you should about dealing with Capita:

  • They have no more rights than any other salesperson. They can't come into your home without a warrant or your permission.
  • All officers carry ID cards which they should show. They should also state the reason why they are visiting you.
  • You don't have to deal with them if you don't want to. You also don't have to give your name to them or sign any documents they give you.
  • If you don't let the enquiry officer in, they can apply to a magistrates' court for a search warrant. They can only do this if there is good reason to suspect an offence has been committed. Refusing an officer entry into your house isn't enough to justify anyone applying for a search warrant.
  • You don't have to answer the door to them if you don't want to.
  • You shouldn't feel forced to answer any questions.

Visit the TV Licensing website for more information.

There are many alternatives to watching live tv/ iPlayer

Alternatives to a TV licence

There are a lot of alternative options if you don’t want to pay for a TV licence as you don't watch much live television.

  • Pay for a monthly online service such as Netflix or Amazon Prime.
  • Only use on-demand or catch-up services such as All 4.
  • Use the Learning on Screen service BoB National, which 100 UK universities are currently subscribed to. BoB has recently aired programmes from over 65 free-to-air channels (including BBC) and their archives go back decades. If your university is subscribed, you can watch TV shows hours after they air.

Have any more questions about TV licensing? Post them below.

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