TV licence: do I need one at university?

When you go to university, you have to remember tons of things to take with you. But one thing people often forget is the dreaded TV licence. If you're planning on watching any telly while you're at uni, here are a few pointers on whether you do or don't need a licence.

Cat watching TV

Do I really need a TV licence?

If you're going to be watching live TV or BBC iPlayer, then yes. You'll also need one if you're going to be recording live TV and watching it later. And watching TV isn't just limited to a TV set; here are some of the devices you might need a TV licence for:

  • TV
  • Computer
  • Tablet
  • Mobile phone
  • Games console
  • Digital box
  • DVD/VHS recorder

You don't need a TV licence for:

  • Watching pre-recorded videos or DVDs
  • Close-circuit monitoring
  • Watching on demand or catch up on services other than BBC iPlayer

Do I need a licence for uni halls?

If you have a TV in uni halls you're probably going to need a TV licence of your own. 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. 

If a TV is in a communal area then it may be covered by the university's halls of residence licence. You don't need to buy another licence to cover just the communal area.

It’s also important to note that as of 1 September 2016, things have changed. A TV Licence is now required if you want to watch live TV or BBC iPlayer off your tablet, computer or any other streaming devise, so it’s best to get one if you want to catch up with Luther or Strictly. 

Like the previous TV licence, your halls’ licence doesn’t cover you when you’re in your room. You also 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. 


  • You don't need a licence if you want to watch on-demand programmes on services that aren't BBC iPlayer (4oD, ITV Hub etc). If you use a computer to watch live TV then you need a licence (unless you are exempt for any reason).
  • A TV licence allows everyone in a household to use one or more TV sets or video recorders.
  • If you're one of the tiny minority who's watching on a black-and-white TV, then you only require a black-and-white licence. If you have a colour TV, a DVD recorder or video recorder, you will need a colour licence (this also applies if the DVD or video recorder is used with a black and white television set).
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TV licence

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:

Black and white television licence: £49.00 (updated: 15 July 2015)
Colour television licence: £145.50 (updated: 15 July 2015)

Ways to pay your TV licence

Yearly payment
If you make a yearly payment for your TV licence, you can pay by:

  • Cash at a PayPoint outlet
  • Cheque or postal order, by post to TV Licensing.
  • Debit/credit card. Pay online or over the phone. Debit cards can also be used at PayPoint outlets.
  • Direct debit from your bank account.

Direct debits will be made from your account yearly at the current price, unless you cancel the agreement.

Direct debit
Monthly. If you're buying a new licence, you'll pay the whole cost over the first six months. After the first six months, you can start paying towards the next year's licence in 12 monthly instalments.
Quarterly. You have to pay an extra £5 (£1.25 per quarter).

Weekly/fortnightly payments - 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 apply for one by calling 0300 555 0286. Weekly payments can be as low as £5.60 and you can use the card to pay online, at a PayPoint outlet, by phone or by text message.

TV licence savings card
The TV licence savings card has replaced TV licence savings stamps. You can add to your savings on the card whenever you like and use it to pay for your next licence in part or in full.

PayPoint outlet
You can use a PayPoint outlet to pay for, or save for, your TV licence. You can pay by cash or debit card. PayPoint outlets can be found in newsagents, local shops, supermarkets and petrol stations. You can get details of your local PayPoint outlets on the TV Licensing website.

Kim Kardashian

How to save money

A quick and easy way to cut costs is to make sure you're not paying for your licence over the summer (when you're not at uni obviously). Wait until the beginning of the university year to get your licence. Then, at the end of your uni year, claim back the remainder of the year that you're not at university (July/August/September). 

Note: When you get your TV licence it backdates it to the beginning of the month (ie. if you buy your licence on the 30 September it starts from 1 September - you've been warned!). 

Another way to save money is to go seriously old school and get a black and white TV. The licence is nearly £100 cheaper than a colour TV licence.

To find out how to claim a bit of cash back visit the TV Licencing refund page

More on TSR: 
What TV show would you bring back? 
Check out our entertainment forum for more info on TV and Film! 
Should there be a referendum on the licence fee?

What happens if I get caught without a licence?

  • TV licence evasion is against the law. If you're watching live TV and haven't got a licence you can get fined up to £1,000. You'll probably have to pay court fees too.
  • However, the court can't take away the television set or order you to pay the television licence fee arrears.
  • You may receive a criminal record if convicted of TV licence evasion.

Things to note when dealing with TV Licencing

The company Capita monitors TV licence evasion on behalf of TV Licencing. They have lots of investigation officers and send even more letters (even if you don't own a TV). A few things you probably need to know when dealing with these people:

  • They have no more rights than any other salesman. 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 let an officer in to your house, they will carry out a brief inspection of the main living areas. If they are OK that there is no TV, they can authorise a 'stop on contact' for a period of time, usually four years
  • If you don't let the enquiry officer in, they can apply to a magistrates' court (sheriff court in Scotland) 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.
  • As with any door-to-door callers, be very wary of them. Consider not answering the door to them if you are in alone.
  • You are innocent until proven guilty and don't have to answer for anything.

Visit the TV Licencing website for more information