With universities awarding places to students this week who have been denied the opportunity to actually sit their exams, we thought now would be the perfect time to look at how the student lettings market has also been affected by the ongoing COVID-19 restrictions. Although the majority of university students completed their last academic year in an online capacity due to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, demand for student accommodation for this September’s cohort is still looking strong, according to new research.
Students in England have to pay a significant amount of money for their higher education so they obviously want to have the best experience their money (or student loan) can buy. So, when the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on the university experience became clear it seemed that students would take a gap year in 2020-21 rather than face an unknown period of disruption due to the continuing COVID-19 threat – with even the infamous ‘Freshers Week’ in jeopardy of being cancelled. However, due to the lack of available jobs and new restrictions on travel many have decided that university is absolutely the best place for them to be right now.
On-site vs Remote Learning
One of the main attractions of attending university compared with choosing a distance learning degree course is for the sheer physical experience: for example, attending seminars and using the university’s extensive library and their world-class research facilities.
Then, of course, there are the social benefits. University is a great way to meet people not only from the UK but from different countries and cultures around the world. University students often make friendships that last a lifetime and look back on the experience as ‘one of the best times of their lives’.
For many students, university will be the first time they have lived away from home. They will develop important life skills that will prepare them for adult life, such as learning to cook or budget for the year ahead. Their accommodation may also be the first place they rent in their lives and this accommodation will form a large part of their university experience.
According to HESA, the Higher Education Statistics Agency, nearly 2.4 million people enrolled in higher education across the UK last year, with 56 per cent of students opting for either provider-maintained properties, private-sector halls or other rented accommodation.
With uncertainty still prevailing over the sector, StripeHomes, a property developer of student and residential accommodation in the North East decided to explore which universities are experiencing the highest demand amongst the returning student body and also find out which universities, and surrounding areas, have the most student accommodation availability.
Where current demand for student accommodation is concerned, the University of York ranked top in the research, meaning that of all current student accommodation available, 73 per cent has already been rented by those starting or returning to the university for the 2020-21 academic year.
Student specific accommodation near the UCA in Farnham is also in high demand with 61 per cent of stock currently listed already having the let agreed. The universities of Stirling (45%), Surrey (44%), Bristol (41%), Exeter (36%), Essex (36%), Royal Holloway (35%), Nottingham (35%) and Nottingham Trent (36%) also rank high for current student rental demand.
Best Student Accommodation Availability
When it comes to the best universities for student accommodation availability, Warwick ranked top, with the amount of student-specific accommodation currently available accounting for 71 per cent of all rental properties listed online for the area.
Next highest for availability is Kent (67%), Dundee (59%), Swansea (58%) then Newcastle and Northumbria (56%) which all rank high in terms of the volume of student-specific accommodation as a percentage of all available rentals.
Universities with the Least Student Accommodation Availability
By contrast, King’s College London, Imperial College London and London School of Economics and Political Science rank worst in terms of availability with just 5 per cent of the accommodation currently available to rent in the City of Westminster specifically designated as student accommodation.
Queen Mary’s in Tower Hamlets (6%), the SOAS University of London (10%) and UCL also rank as some of the worst where the volume of currently available student accommodation is concerned.
Managing Director of StripeHomes, James Forrester, commented: “Investing in student accommodation can be a smart move as the ever-revolving carousel of tenant demand for student-specific properties can ensure a constant stream of rental income.
“Even in the current climate, there remains a strong demand for student accommodation surrounding universities all over the nation, presenting a great opportunity for property investors and developers to step up and provide these much-needed homes.”
The MD of StripeHomes also sees going to university as being a physical life experience that is unlikely to be replaced by the trend of remote working and studying currently sweeping the country.
We agree. Although after this year’s experience, some students may ask for assurances from the campus or landlord that they are able to break their tenancy in exceptional circumstances such as this year’s pandemic. Will you be changing your student tenancy agreements in the light of recent events?