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Brexit: Shared accommodation forecast to see demand surge this year

by Nikki Dale -

Nearly a month after the UK officially left the European Union (EU) we can finally move forward and leave behind as many of the perceived disadvantages and uncertainties on what Brexit would bring.

In 2016, the UK was called to vote in favour, or not, for UK to exit the EU – ‘Brexit’ – it was won by those in favour of the Brexit.

The government triggered proceedings for the UK to leave the EU in March 2017; originally, that meant that the UK would leave the EU on 29 March 2019. The leaving date was then postponed to 31 October 2019, and later to 31 January 2020. Directly following Brexit is an 11-month transition phase until 31 December 2020.

After this long Brexit journey seeing the lowest sterling slump in 31-years, its fair share of economic uncertainty – which arguably was trumped by the global pandemic anyway – and trade talks to the wire, Brexiteer or not, we were all glad it was finally ‘done’.

Undoubtedly, there will be some transition, maybe access issues and problems in the short-term, but there is seemingly much being introduced that offers longer-term success post-Brexit.

So, what is happening post-Brexit for international student wanting to study in the UK?

The UK government still plans to attract 600,000 students by 2030

This international strategy when first announced two years ago still stands firm regardless of Brexit and the Coronavirus.

Over the last year universities have been presented many challenges, not just financial set-backs, but fundamentals, like how they will deliver teaching to their students.  However, the bigger picture hasn’t changed.  In fact, if anything, the pandemic will initiate more support and more focus to this strategy.

Also moving into 2021, with the vaccine beginning to roll out in the UK, there is promise for things to return to normal face-to-face learning in the near future.

Universities and educators have been very clear: International students are welcome in the UK.  There is no limit on the number of international students who can come to the UK to study, and the UK continues to increase the number of international students in higher education.

Positive stats on Chinese students in the UK and why the US is declining

British universities enjoy a world-class reputation and regularly dominate international university rankings.

New Oriental, the largest provider of private educational services in China, in its 2019 survey of oversea education, showed the UK is rapidly becoming the second-favourite destination for Chinese students looking to study overseas, with Australian and Canada following suit.

According to UCAS, China has become the main driver of non-UK applicant growth. In 2019, Chinese applicant numbers jumped by 25.7% and acceptances grew by 22%. This trend continues even under the pandemic disruption, as Chinese applicants have increased by 27% in 2020.

The US has always attracted the highest population of Chinese students in the previous 10 years, but numbers have declined mainly due to geopolitical conflict.  Moreover, students face a intense scrutiny over their visas and also cancellations.

The UK’s new International student immigration route

In contrast, the UK is taking an entirely different approach. The new international student immigration route within the UK aim to treat all students equally, either international students or those from Europe coming to study. There is also no limit to the number of international students that can apply, with applications accepted as early as six months prior to entering the UK.

Why the expected surge of student numbers in 2021?

The UK government has introduced a points-based immigration route to attract international students.

Under the new visa requirements, international students will have to reach at least 70 points to qualify, on condition that they secure a place on a programme.  They also need to be able to support themselves financially and are fluent in the English language – all of which contribute as points.

They have made it easier for international graduates to secure trained-for jobs in the UK and contribute to the UK’s economic growth with the new Graduate visa. It allows international students who complete undergraduate and master’s degrees in the UK, to stay for two years and those who complete a PhD to stay for three years.

The new graduate immigration route will also be available in the UK to international students who have completed a degree in the UK from summer of 2021.  And graduates will be able to work, hunt for jobs at any skill level in the UK for up to two years.

Real Estate Worldwide’s MD, David Coates adds, “This sector brings billions of pounds of inward investment into the country.  The UK government and higher education institutions spearheading this strategy have chosen the perfect time to make these steps for further success and continued growth.  Brexit may impact EU student numbers in the UK this year, but the new visas will help increase international student demand, by providing a strong, attractive offering.”

“With strategies like this, over-demand and under-supply of student housing will continue to be an issue to be overcome by UK universities, councils and the PBSA sector.  Top university cities and towns will likely see a surge from students in 2021, needing shared and purpose-built student accommodation”.


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