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Overseas students need first class accommodation, why is this important for your investment?

by Nikki Dale -

Any parent’s decision to support their child moving continents to study overseas is a long, well-thought-through and budgeted one.   UCAS data states there are around 2.3 million higher education students enrolled in the UK, and over 20% are overseas students. International students in the UK have rose in numbers exponentially over the years – 215% since 2000.

The Overseas Student Attraction

It’s worthwhile reviewing the factors that has signified this consistent growth, spiking in some years with record breaking applications.  2019/2020 witnessed 706,000 students applying to start a full-time university course and notably over a fifth of these applications came from overseas.

It is not surprising overseas students are attracted to the UK’s high-quality university system, which is home to 18 of the world’s top 100 universities.   State-of-the-art technical and medical resources and facilities attract many students combined with the government incentives and policies, including post-grad work visas, gaining some of the most talented students from around the world.

And with Higher Education in the UK being held in such high regard worldwide, popularity of UK universities rose again with the abolition in 2015 of the cap on the number of student a university could take.  Universities opened their doors wide and expansion plans commenced.

Subsequently, what this influx of overseas applications meant was an major supply and demand problem – a good problem in essence.  Student accommodation developers took heed and a record breaking amount of PBSA developments went into planning and construction in 2016 with high demand from overseas students and parents for high quality, private accommodation, where students could wholeheartedly focus on their studies, in high-spec surroundings and added-value-facilities that were considered essential to their universities experience.

So why do overseas student need first class accommodation?

International students are the main market for PBSA. They require convenience as they enter a brand-new city.

In 2017/18 around 86,000 international students enrolled in UK universities as undergrads according to HESA, many of whom were looking to live in PBSA’s.  As James Pullan of Knight Frank explained at this time “PBSA’s are mostly for international students and postgraduates, whose numbers have risen ten-fold in the last 10 to 15 years. They prefer ‘plug and play’ accommodation. They don’t want hassle, like sorting out their own council tax. Nor do their parents, who are paying.

“Students from around the world want to be in the right place, in good quality accommodation with facilities and communities that add value to that experience.”

Matthew Bowen, Head of Student Property Research, Knight Frank

READ ARTICLE: What is Plug & Play Accommodation

A Knight Frank survey, in partnership with UCAS, showed that accommodation is a key factor in supporting student wellbeing. Existing and new operators need to respond accordingly. It stated, students will demand more from their university experience: As students have ever greater expectations of their time at university and the demands placed on student accommodation will intensify. Students from around the world want to be in the right place, in good quality accommodation with facilities and communities that add value to that experience.

READ ARTICLE: The rise of the Plug & Play student

Let’s talk to the end user, the student.

It has become apparent that students studying and living in the UK associate their private student living, known more commonly to us as PBSA, on how much they will enjoy university and how well they will do in their degree.   Six in ten students believe that staying in different accommodation would have helped them achieve higher grades.

Students want space and a private place to study with a technology-enabled environment and facilities that give them a study verses wellbeing balance, such as a gymnasium, a cinema room and a residents’ lounge.

“6 in 10 believe staying in different accommodation

would have helped them achieve higher grades.”

READ BLOG: Top 5 decision making factors for students

What is the research proving?

Research has shown students are aware, as a result of where they live their grades will more likely be higher.

The link is strong between PBSA and higher academic results.  Students in their first year of university are 26% more likely to report top grades if they reside in PBSA, compared to students living in halls of residence.  The trend naturally continues as student progress through their university years.

Further studies supported the students view that their accommodation affects their happiness levels and those living in PBSA in their first year are twice as likely to be “very satisfied” with their physical health (60%) than students in halls of residence (32%)

READ BLOG: PBSA is best for wellbeing

Technology is essential for International students

From the same survey research* shows – with many PBSA developers taking heed from the onset of their planning – technology is essential, with international students 20% more likely to prioritise technology, than British students (14%).  This means dependable and speedy WiFi is essential.  From year one to year three the percentage of students who say technology influences their decision-making increases 4% – 5% YOY.

Why is this important for your investment? 

Underpinning the fact that in 2018-19 the number of full-time students outweighed bed-spaces by 3:1, this continues the challenge PBSA developers face and offers huge potential to developers and investors alike.

We read, with the abundance of research available to investors, from an industry and investment perspective, but student research is so fundamental also for the continued evolvement and success of this asset class.  Knowing the needs of students and what they want from their private student dwellings is crucial.

Its important for your investment that students believe they are truly getting the best all round value for money.  Long gone are the days of cheap and cheerful accommodation and, it’s a roof over their heads.  Research has proven overseas students, and their paying parents, want convenience when arriving in a new and unfamiliar town/city.  They fundamental seek and make decisions based on private space – this includes bathroom and kitchen areas.  The range of facilities available for their wellbeing and physical fitness and how Wi-Fi and technology-equipped the accommodation is.

Your investment is protected by your international student tenant advocating PBSA to their fellow students in years two and three, and to upcoming overseas first year students coming from their wide social communities and home countries.  This combined with the evidence of better performance in degree result underlies the reason overseas students need first class accommodation and why it is important, actually vital, for your investment.


*SOURCE:Student Accommodation Impact Report (octopus)

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