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Term-Time Accommodation Trends

Posted by Aisling Murphy in ,

Key findings:

  • Nationally, the number of students living in PBSA has trended upwards since 2014
  • The proportion of undergraduates living at home jumped in the 2020/21 academic year
  • Oxford reported the highest proportion of students living in PBSA, however the vast majority are in a provider maintained property, rather than private-sector halls
  • Norwich had the highest proportion of students staying in HMO properties during the 2020/21 academic year

Analysis of data provided by HESA can reveal key insights into where students are living throughout their studies and how this has changed over time.

Annual Live at Home vs PBSA Rates max-width:100 height=
Source: HESA
Note: PBSA here is defined as students categorised as living in either "Provider maintained property" or "Private-sector halls", as per HESA data.

The chart above shows how the proportion of students living in both PBSA (private-sector halls or provider maintained property) or staying at their parental/guardian homes has changed since the 2014/15 academic year.

Whilst nationally the number of undergraduates living in PBSA has increased by over 53,000 between the 2014/15 and 2020/21 academic years, the chart shows that the proportion of undergraduates living in PBSA has actually fallen by nearly 1% over the same period. However, this is attributed to a sudden 2.2% decline (-12,305 students) recorded in 2021/21. What is apparent from the data, is that the number of students living in PBSA has been steadily rising over the long term.

Meanwhile, the proportion of students living at their parental/guardian homes was relatively consistent up until a sudden jump in the 2020/21 academic year, with the proportion rising by 2.3%.

Annuall Live at Home rates in key cities max-width:100 height=
Source: HESA

Although the live at home rate of undergraduates was largely steady between 2014/15 and 2019/20, the chart above shows that this varies drastically between cities.

The proportion of students living at home in Bath was largely unchanged, up until 2020/21 when there was an uptick in this figure. This is broadly in line with the pattern recorded across the country and could be attributed to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Elsewhere, Glasgow and Hull saw the proportion of students at home rising by 15.8% and 17.1% respectively. Hull in particular dropped to just 0.8% in the 2017/18 academic year, followed by two years of very high growth.

Conversely, Stoke-on-Trent and Norwich reported declines over the same period of 12.8% and 7.8%.

In Newcastle-under-Lyme, the live at home rate fluctuated wildly during the period, dropping from more than 50% in 2014/15 to 27.6% in 2015/16, before rising again in 2020/21.

Cities with highest and lowest PBSA rates max-width:100 height=
Source: HESA

The chart above shows the 5 cities with the highest and the 5 cities with the lowest proportion of undergraduates living in PBSA properties in the 2020/21 academic year.

Oxford had the highest proportion of undergraduates living in PBSA residences, representing a total of 17,070 students. However, only 375 of these undergraduates are registered as living in private-sector halls (all of which are attendees of Oxford Brookes University), with the remaining all living in provider maintained properties.

Meanwhile at the other end of the spectrum, Newcastle-under Lyme (home to Keele University) reported just 725 students living in PBSA, 8.7% of their total undergraduates. Of these, 550 students are living in provider maintained properties.

Annual PBSA rates in key cities max-width:100 height=
Source: HESA

The chart above shows how the proportion of students living in PBSA has changed over time in particular cities of interest.

Portsmouth and Lincoln saw the proportion of students living in PBSA increase by the most between 2014/15 and 2020/21, with figures increased by 25.3% and 20.0% respectively. In Lincoln this proportion rose by 23.4% by 2018/19 but has since been in decline. At the other end of the spectrum, Buckingham reported the biggest fall in PBSA rates across the reported period, with the proportion declining by 28.9%. Newcastle-under-Lyme also saw its figure fall by 18.1% between the 2014/15 and 2020/21 academic years, despite a reasonably big increase reported in the 2015/16 academic year.

Universities with top HMO rates max-width:100 height=
Source: HESA
Note: HMO here is defined as students categorised as living in either "Own residence" or "Other rented accommodation", as per HESA data.

The chart above shows the universities that reported the highest proportion of undergraduates living in HMO accommodation in the 2020/21 academic year.

Seven universities reported HMO rates of over 50%, the highest of which was Buckinghamshire New University. According to the data 11,135 of the university's undergraduate students were living in HMO properties in the 2020/21 academic year. The majority of the remaining students were reported to be living in their parental/guardian home, with just 1,160 undergraduates living in either private-sector halls or provider maintained properties.

The University of Leeds reported the highest total number of students living in HMO residences (14,690), equating to 55.0% of the total undergraduate population of the university.

Cities with top HMO rates max-width:100 height=
Source: HESA

The chart above shows the cities that reported the highest proportion of undergraduates living in HMO accommodation in the 2020/21 academic year.

In 2020/21 Norwich had the greatest proportion of undergraduates living HMO properties. According to the data, 11,215 undergraduates were recorded as staying in HMO residents in 2020/21. The majority of these are students from the University of East Anglia. Stirling and Plymouth followed closely behind.

Annual HMO rates in key cities max-width:100 height=
Source: HESA

The chart above shows the cities that reported the most significant changes in proportions of students living in HMO properties.

Stirling and Buckingham reported the biggest increases between the 2014/15 and 2020/21 academic years in the proportion of undergraduates living in HMO properties, reporting total growth of 27.4% and 26.8% respectively. Buckingham in particular reported nearly all of this growth in the most recent year, jumping by 28.1%.

Conversely, Portsmouth, Bournemouth and Lincoln reported the highest reductions in HMO rates, dropping by 32.0%, 24.7% and 23.2%. HMO rates in Portsmouth in particular dropped by 22.2% in the last year.

Whilst it is unclear at this stage whether changes to the reported figures in 2020/21 were directly due to COVID or represent a broader trend, what is apparent is that the proportion and number of undergraduates choosing to live in PBSA has been increasing over the long term.

However, the data also helps highlight the critical role that HMOs play in providing accommodation to students, which in many cases remain the most popular option. Furthermore, whilst trends can vary significantly per location, there has not been a rapid reduction in the proportion of students living in HMOs, suggesting this accommodation option will continue to play a pivotal role, despite increasing PBSA supply.