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University Sexual Health Guide

Starting university is a big change and one that brings many challenges and opportunities.  Here are some tips for staying healthy and safe as a fresher.

Looking after your sexual health

Practise safer sex – use a condom!

Condoms are the only method of contraception that also protects you from STIs. You might be able to get them for free from your Students’ Union but if not you can buy them for as little as 99p. More about free condoms

Make sure you have enough contraceptive pills

If you use the contraceptive pill (or patch or ring) and you’re likely to run out soon, it might be worth getting a new prescription before moving to university. That way it’s one less thing to think about in whirlwind that is the first few months of university.

Get tested

It’s really important to get tested each time you have sex with a new person. Lots of STIs, including chlamydia and gonorrhoea, don’t always present symptoms, meaning you could have one without knowing.

Order an STI test kit online

Don’t delay emergency contraception

If you think you need emergency contraception, do not delay seeking help. The method of emergency contraception you use will depend on how long ago you had unprotected sex.

Calculate your risk of getting pregnant

Know where you can go for help

Even if you never need to use them, knowing where you can find your local sexual health services, A&E departments and walk-in centres is never a bad thing! Remember: you do not need to register to visit a sexual health clinic.

More about accessing health services when at university

Check out the Help & Advice section of our website for more information and guidance on sexual health, relationships and wellbeing. There’s also lots of signposts to useful helplines and services.

Accessing health services


You don’t need to be registered with a GP surgery to receive emergency medical care from them, however if you are living in student halls it is a good idea to make sure you are registered with a local GP in case you need to receive medical care for more than 14 days.  

You can register with a GP with a temporary address if you are expecting to live near that surgery for up to three months. You will remain registered with your permanent GP surgery as well. If you are living in halls for more than three months, you will need to register as a permanent resident. Read more about temporarily registering with a GP here.   

Sexual health

You do not need to register to visit a sexual health clinic. Some universities even have their own sexual health clinics. Check with your Students’ Union what’s available at your university.

Sexual assault in student halls

Sexual assault, abuse or violence is any act of unwanted sexual contact including rape (having sex with you without your consent), someone sexually touching you without your consent, online grooming, domestic abuse and sexual exploitation. 

More about consent.

If you need support with an instance of sexual violence, you can contact Rape Crisis

You can also visit our pages on the following topics to find out about more ways of getting help:

If you experience any type of sexual harassment while living in student halls, it is not your fault  and no one should have to put up with it. We have listed a few steps below which could help you deal with it: 

  1. Ask them to stop. If you feel comfortable doing so, tell the person that you don’t like what they are doing and you want it to stop. If you don’t feel safe confronting them, speak to someone else who can help like a trusted adult or friend. 
  2. Make a note of what happens. It is a good idea to make note of when and where the sexual harassment happens, and if possible get details of any witnesses. If you are receiving unwanted letters, emails or texts; keep a record of them. 
  3. Speak to someone. If you’re experiencing harassment it’s a really good idea to speak to someone who you trust, like a family member, carer, or teacher. They will be able to help you with next steps, or assist you in finding additional support if you need. If you don’t feel comfortable speaking to someone you know or would rather tell someone over the phone, there are organisations that you can contact, like  Victim Support.  
  4. Report it. It is always your decision whether to report harassment. If you report to your school, college or work, they will have to follow up and investigate your report. If you are in immediate danger, you should call the police on 999.  

Support with mental health

Moving away from home to live in a new environment can be difficult. It’s important to take care of your mental as well as physical health and seek support if needed.  

If you or someone you know needs help right now you should, if possible, try to talk to a parent, carer or trusted adult. Your university or college is likely to have a mental health service they can point you towards, such as a college counsellor or support groups, so it’s always worth getting in touch with student services to ask about this. 

If that’s not possible, there are other sources of help and support: 

  • Samaritans: someone to talk to about whatever you are going through. Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
  • YoungMinds – crisis messenger: text the YoungMinds Crisis Messenger, for free 24/7 support across the UK if you are experiencing a mental health crisis. There are also details of other sources of help and support.
  • On My Mind – urgent help: a list of organisations offering mental health help and support collated by the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families. On My Mind also has ideas for self-care and a directory of mental health services.
  • Child Bereavement UK: a helpline offering confidential support, information and guidance to children, young people, parents and families experiencing bereavement.

Staying healthy

With so many people mingling in student halls, nightclubs and lectures, it’s no surprise that coughs and colds spread like wildfire at universities. Combine this with disruptions to sleep patterns from socialising and events, changes to diet (pasta and toast, anyone?), maybe a few more drinks than usual and stress from assignments, it would be a miracle if you make it through university without getting ill at some point!

Eating well, staying hydrated, getting enough sleep and exercise will help keep coughs and colds at bay. Make sure you visit a GP if you feel unwell or your symptoms continue or get worse.


While your cold and cough-like symptoms are likely to be nothing sinister, it’s important you know to look out for symptoms of meningitis. These include a stiff neck, seizures, vomiting, dislike of bright lights, drowsiness or a rash.
More about meningitis
If you’re showing symptoms of meningitis, you should call 999 or go to A&E.


Students going to university should make sure before they leave that they have had following vaccines:

  • MenACWY vaccine – Protects against meningitis and septicaemia
  • MMR vaccine – (two doses) Protects against measles and mumps

More about vaccinations

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