Theresa May Set to Announce Tuition Fee Review

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Prime minister Theresa May is set to formally announce a year-long independent review of student finance today, as she admits students in England face one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world.

Mrs May will warn the system has failed to deliver sufficient price competition and will argue against outdated attitudes that favour university degrees over technical education.

Education Secretary Damian Hinds has previously indicated that the government wanted to see more variety in the level of fees and the structure of degrees. This includes whether some courses could be taught within two years instead of three.

The independent review will also investigate ways to reduce the cost of a degree, such as cutting interest rates on loans from their current level of 6.1% and possibly reintroducing grants for disadvantaged students.

Meanwhile, university staff are calling for a radical overhaul of the tuition fee system, with leader of the UCU lecturers' union saying the review must be more than just tinkering at the edges. However, the Russell Group of leading universities has warned against changes to fees that could place a limit on the number of places available. In particular, the group of leading universities wants to see a funding models that provides universities with a predictable and sustainable income.

A study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies calculated that students in England face more than £5,000 in interest charges before they have even left university, helping to push up total debt upon graduation to over £50,000.

Huge Student Tower Earmarked for Leeds

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Plans have been lodged to build a huge 36-storey tower of student accommodation in Leeds.

Consisting of 754 student flats, it's hoped building work could begin on the site as early as this summer, with the development completed in time for the 2021-22 academic year.

The application is still awaiting planning approval but architect Gary East, said the design team was conscious of providing something "permanent and dignified".

Councillor Christine Macniven has raised the question as to whether there was a risk of oversupply. However, chief executive of applicant Olympian Homes, Simon Murrary-Twinn suggested student numbers were growing, which has a knock-on effect on family housing in traditional student areas.

It was argued the new apartments would free up family homes in the city's student areas, while the area had already been identified as appropriate for tall buildings in the council's own policy.

The application from Olympian Homes follows a previous plan for a 40-storey block on the same site, which was subsequently withdrawn when the land was sold on.

Student Flats to Replace Portsmouth Tea Merchant

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A tea merchant in Portsmouth is set to make way for more student accommodation.

The owner of Gadsden Tea, Andrew Gadsen, confirmed the store's closure would represent the first step towards relocating to a factory in Hilsea in the summer.

The site of Gadsen Tea was earmarked for residential development in Portsmouth City Council's 2012 Somers Town and North Southsea Area Action Plan.

However, a planning application calling for the construction of a four-storey block of student flats was granted approval in 2013. The plans consist of a 66-bed block of student accommodation and three commercial units.

Commenting on the proposed development, Portsmouth City Councils leader Donna Jones, suggested any related building project would be a decision for the developer, despite being a partial landowner. However, it was recognised that Portsmouth has a need for young professionals to live in good-quality accommodation and requires more student accommodation.

York St John University Reveal Plans for New Creative Centre

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York St John University is planning to invest £15 million into a major new development and possibly launch a site in London.

The university has existed in York since 1841 and is the city's oldest higher education institution. It is now in the early stages of planning for a major new building, with construction work due to commence in 2019.

Design work is already under way for the "Creative Centre", which will be a 4,500 sq ft centre across three storeys, consisting of three buildings linked by an atrium.

The new development will also feature an exhibition space and is due to open in 2020.

A spokesman for the university confirmed the plans are being drawn up, but indicated little could be revealed at this early stage.

Commenting on the new facility, city councillor Keith Orrell, said: "Investment in the city is always welcome and whilst it is not clear what a Creative Centre would deliver we would want to work with the university to enhance the work that is already happening in the city."

"Clearly these proposals are at an early stage of their development. I would be delighted to meet with representatives of the university to learn more about them and work out how their plans fit with local economic strategies."

At this stage it's not clear where the Creative Centre will be built, but York St John says it has already undergone a £100 million transformation over the last decade.

More Student Flats Coming to Cambridge

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More student housing could be coming to one of Cambridge's busiest streets after plans were submitted for a new four-storey block.

Under the plans put forward to Cambridge City Council, the existing four storey building located at 90-92 Regent Street will developed into 24 student bedrooms. The site is currently being used as offices, with shops and restaurants on the ground floor.

Although the planning application calls for the ground floor to be used as shop space, the three floors above would become student accommodation.

Documents submitted as part of the planning process suggest the accommodation will provide students with the option to live closer to campus rather than in off-site locations.

The design and access statement submitted alongside plans by Robert Lombardelli Partnership, said: "In the past, a percentage of Downing College's students have resided off-site. Whilst such accommodation may have been considered within easy travelling distance, Downing recognises the benefits of providing accommodation either on-site or at least on the peripheral of the College Grounds."

"Although much of Regent Street is designated to office space, under the Local Plan, the demand & trend for city centre office space is receding, with the Council encouraging office space to be located out of the city centre either towards the train station or on various nearby business parks."

"Downing College themselves have, in the past, been unable to let entire floors of several buildings that have consequently remained vacant for many years."

Uliving Named As Preferred Bidder for University of Brighton Accommodation Project

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Uliving has been named as the preferred bidder for the University of Brighton's new 800-bed student development at the Moulsecoomb campus.

The new student housing represents the centrepiece of the development project set to take place at the site in Lewes Road.

The Preston Barracks site located nearby is part of a multi-million-pound redevelopment of the area.

Commenting on the project, Sue McHugh, director of campus strategy at the university said: "We are pleased to announce Uliving as preferred bidder for the new student accommodation at the Moulsecoomb campus."

She added: "This is a hugely important development for the university and the city and delivers on a key commitment in our current five-year strategy."

The official awarding of the contract is set be decided by the end of May, subject to the successful completion of the preferred bidder stage.

CEO of Uliving Sam Veal, said: "It's great to have been selected as preferred bidder by the University of Brighton. The university's approved masterplan to transform their Moulsecoomb campus is the catalyst for an exciting period of growth and development. We are delighted to play our part, creating and operating the new high-quality accommodation and delivering a first-class student experience."

Preston Student Accommodation to House Key Workers

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A newly built block of purpose-built student accommodation in Preston has been given permission to house key workers and apprentices.

Apartments at the Tramshed, which was until now a student-only block of flats, will now be open to apprentices and employees working in education, health and the police.

Amendments to the residential rules were approved this week at a city planning committee meeting.

The change was approved despite concerns the building may not be completely appropriate for non-students and that it had a lack of parking facilities.

Councillor Stuart Greenhalgh suggested if it were a new application, they would have concerns about vehicles, as there are no parking facilities for potential key workers.

Meanwhile, Councillor John Swindells said: "They are struggling to fill it so are now looking to fill it with professionals who won't be able to park and won't be able to travel."

"It's a real worry that we're seeing applications coming this way and I worry that we will see more."

CBRE GIP Sells Stake in Student Accommodation Trust

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CBRE Global Investment Partners (GIP) has sold 75% of the Curlew Student Trust (CST) portfolio and set up a second fund.

The student accommodation assets were picked up by Student Roost for an undisclosed sum.

The 15 separate student accommodation assets sold by CBRE GIP comprised of 5,407 beds, situated across 12 university cities in the UK including London, Birmingham, Bath, Durham and Sheffield.

The sale also includes development land in Swansea that already has planning permission for student accommodation.

Curlew Student Trust was launched in 2013 as a seven-year fund and initially started with three seed assets backed by clients of CBRE GIP and managed by Curlew Alternative Asset Management.

According to CBRE GIP, the strategy of forward funding purpose-built student accommodation has been very successful, resulting in substantial growth in the trust. The portfolio of CST grew to 20 assets with a further five due to be operational in time for the 2018-19 academic year.

CBRE GIP decided to sell 75% of the portfolio due to its strong performance and the fulfilment of its objectives to date. The remaining 25% will continue to be managed by Curlew.

An additional venture has now been set up, dubbed Curlew Student Trust 2 (CST 2), which will aim to follow a similar strategy.

CST 2 already has two seed assets under offer, consisting of 917 beds and due for delivery in 2020.

Commenting on the trusts, Paul Oliver, CEO of Curlew Alternative Asset Management, said: "The Curlew team are delighted to have crystalized this exceptional performance for our investors and look forward to the completion of the retained element of the portfolio and the success of the newly launched second fund."

Hull Professor Named As One of World’s Top Researchers

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A professor at the University of Hull has been named as one of the world's most influential researchers.

Professor Xudong Zhao is one of just five UK-based academics to be included in the engineering category of the Highly Cited Researchers Report, compiled by Clarivate Analytics.

Those included in the report must have a "markedly high" number of papers that rank in the top 1% most cited for a field over an 11-year period between 2005-2015.

The professor has been recognised globally for work in the fields of sustainable building services, renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Over 30-years, he has participated in 54 research projects worth £14m, in a further 40 engineering consultancy projects worth £5m, and claimed five patents.

Commenting on Mr Zhao's inclusion in the list, professor David Atkinson, Associate Dean for Research for the Faculty of Science and Engineering, said: "This recognition of Xudong's highly impressive citation figures reflects his research excellence and his growing influence in international research. We are delighted to support the further development of his team, and we look forward to his continued impact on global research and policies in sustainable and efficient-energy solutions for our shared future."

Structured House Group Enters £500m Joint Venture

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Property developer Structured House Group is looking to deliver 5,000 units of student accommodation across the UK after it secured a £500 million deal with a US investor.

The Glasgow based firm has entered an agreement with Harrison Street Real Estate in Chicago, and will see it source land and deal with the planning process.

Work on the first scheme is already under way and will transform the site of Scotway House on the north bank of the Clyde in Glasgow.

The development will accommodate around 400 students and around 300 people are expected to be employed as part of the building project. The site is expected to be ready in time for the 2019 academic year.

Further projects are being planned for Dundee, Edinburgh, Manchester, Plymouth and Liverpool, while sites are also being assessed in Germany, Austria and Portugal.

Commenting on the agreement, SHG chief executive Craig Inglis said: "This is a major moment for SHG and a great example of a Scottish company attracting major investment, giving us the scale and ability to perform on a global platform.

"This joint venture will significantly boost the amount of accommodation and living space for students, as well as bringing jobs and prosperity to every city we enter."

Meanwhile, head of international at Harrisson Street, Robert Mathias, added: "We are excited to enter into a long-term partnership with Structured House Group to bring much-needed, high-quality student accommodation to the city of Glasgow and other attractive markets.

"As one of the largest investors in student housing, we look forward to bringing our significant resources and experience to bear for the benefit of our partners and investors."