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DfE Confirms Tuition Fee Freeze

Posted by Richard Ward in

The Department for Education (DfE) has confirmed that university tuition fees in England will be frozen at a maximum of £9,250 for the next academic year, however, a long-term decision on fees would be delayed until the next Comprehensive Spending Review.

The decision follows on from two years of fee freezes after the Augar review was released in 2019, which had recommended fees by capped at £7,500.

Additional reforms could be on the horizon when the government will finalise its conclusion on the Augar report. The report suggested the return of maintenance grants for poorer students but there was no mention of this in the interim response.

In relation to the tuition fee freeze, the report said: "This gives reassurance to potential students that incentives are aligned to encourage courses with good job outcomes and reinforces the government's commitment to safeguarding the UK's high-quality research base." However, the DfE said given the pandemic now was not the right time to conclude the review in full.

According to University and College Union general secretary Jo Grady, the government is wasting an opportunity to make real change and it was not good enough to delay the issue until the spending review.


Barings Forward Funds PBSA Schemes

Posted by Richard Ward in

Barings has agreed to forward fund two purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) developments in London and Manchester.

The funding to the tune of £43.8 million will ensure the schemes are completed in time for the 2022-23 academic year and are being built by Alumno.

The PBSA scheme in London will contain 143 beds and is in Bermondsey Spa Gardens, with good access to a number of higher educational institutions.

The development in Manchester consists of 62 studios and is centrally located. It sits within the campus of Manchester Metropolitan University, opposite the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

According to Darren Hutchinson, Managing Director - Head of UK Real Estate Transactions at Barings, the schemes are located in undersupplied markets and are supported by strong universities. The deal represents the first PBSA investment for Barings in Europe and the start of a wider strategy to target EUR 350 million of investments across PBSA, Build to Rent and micro/serviced living.

David Campbell, Founder & Managing Director at Alumno, added: "We are absolutely delighted to have concluded this agreement with Barings, a major and world leading real estate investor. This is a huge boost for our business coming into 2021. It also highlights the confidence in bringing forward major investment into the PBSA sector, which has again demonstrated its resilience during these challenging times. We very much look forward to working with the Barings team and developing our relationship further and believe this will be the start of a strong, long term partnership."


UCLan Offers Partial Refunds

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

The University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) has decided to offer students a seven-week rent rebate.

The refund applies to students who have not returned to the University in compliance with Government advice to stay at home and study online.

Those who entered a tenancy agreement with the University, which also includes some of those in the UCLan leased iQ Kopa scheme, and the new Burnley-based accommodation at Sandygate, will also receive the rebate.

The University has around 1,700 student beds, while more than 50% of students live at home and commute to campus.

Commenting on the decision, UCLan's Vice-Chancellor Professor Graham Baldwin, said: "We fully understand the disruption which the latest national lockdown has created for student accommodation arrangements. We have decided to issue a rent rebate equivalent to seven weeks for all students with a University halls contract who have not made use of their accommodation since the commencement of the national lockdown."

UCLan is also offering a free four-week extension to all students with a University accommodation contract, regardless of whether they qualify for the rebate or not.


NUS Calls for Rent Refunds

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

The National Union of Students (NUS) is demanded that all those renting accommodation should now be offered refunds and the option to leave their tenancy agreement early.
NUS said it was unacceptable there had been no financial support for students and landlords.

Some universities, such as Bristol, Bath and Bath Spa are planning to provide rebates to students who cannot use their accommodation. Meanwhile, the Department for Education said there is funding for those most in need.

NUS has argued that if universities and landlords need financial support to ensure refunds can be provided then the government must step in.

Commenting on the issue, the chief executive of the National Residents Landlords Association said that many landlords rely on rental income for their livelihood and pension and can't afford not to be paid.

A Department for Education spokesperson acknowledged it had been a very difficult time for students and is encouraging universities and accommodation providers to be fair, transparent and have the best interests of students at heart.


Student Portfolio Up for Sale

Posted by Richard Ward

A significant student accommodation portfolio has been put up for sale by Rengen Developments.

Dubbed the Inception Portfolio, the investment opportunity contains sites in Bristol, Bath and Worcester, totalling 634 beds. Student accommodation equates to 509 beds, whilst 125 units are PRS and build to rent.

The developer has appointed James Andrew International to sell the portfolio. Commenting on the sale, Andrew Soning, director at James Andrew International, said: "This is a unique opportunity to invest in quality locations in top university cities in an asset class that has proved to be extremely resilient during these difficult times."

The portfolio has a guide price of £124 million, reflecting an initial yield of 5.34%. It is expected that once fully operational, the portfolio will generate an annual income of £6.6 million.

Of the 17 properties up for sale, eight are already operational and income-producing. Five schemes are due to be completed by September this year, whilst four more assets are due to hit the market in 2022.

The assets are being managed by Rengen's operating platform, which could be utilised by the new owner if required.

The schemes are reportedly being made available individually or as a portfolio.


Student Digs Earmarked for Durham

Posted by Richard Ward

Plans have been put forward to deliver 70 student bedrooms above a store in the centre of Durham's conservation area.

A planning application has been submitted by Metropolis Land and Property Developments to create the student accommodation above the former M&S store in Silver Street.

The proposals also include a two-storey extension on top of the existing roof.

The company acquired the building when Marks & Spencer closed and move out of town and is currently occupied by the Yorkshire Trading Company.

Under the plans, an existing exit onto Silver Street will be remodelled to provide dedicated access to the accommodation.

Whilst the proposals will be viewed in the context of the Durham Castle and Cathedral World Heritage Site, expectations are it would not affect its significance because it will be a small change to the existing townscape of Durham. Furthermore, the proposal will positively impact the site by providing a more attractive proposition.


Student Roost Offers 6 Week Discount

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Student Roost, one of the UK's largest providers of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), has informed its students that it will be offering rent discounts of up to 6 weeks.

Those living away from their accommodation prior to 5 January and are unable to return will be able to apply for the discount.

The operator insists that all of its properties remain open and are Covid-safe.

A spokesperson for the company said: "As one of the biggest student accommodation companies in the UK, we've seen first-hand how difficult the last 12 months have been for our residents."

"We recognise that many of our residents are currently away from their university cities. They are following the advice from the four UK governments not to travel back to their university campuses yet, unless it's essential."

"To help them follow this important guidance, we're writing out to our residents to offer a discount of up to 6 weeks' worth of rent."

Student Roost added that many of its residents have opted to stay in their accommodation and have been able to continue their studies either online or in-person.

The move to offer rent discounts comes after Unite Students told its residents they could apply for a 50% discount on up to 4 weeks of rent.


Student Roost Offers 6 Week Discount

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Student Roost, one of the UK's largest providers of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), has informed its students that it will be offering rent discounts of up to 6 weeks.

Those living away from their accommodation prior to 5 January and are unable to return will be able to apply for the discount.

The operator insists that all of its properties remain open and are Covid-safe.

A spokesperson for the company said: "As one of the biggest student accommodation companies in the UK, we've seen first-hand how difficult the last 12 months have been for our residents."

"We recognise that many of our residents are currently away from their university cities. They are following the advice from the four UK governments not to travel back to their university campuses yet, unless it's essential."

"To help them follow this important guidance, we're writing out to our residents to offer a discount of up to 6 weeks' worth of rent."

Student Roost added that many of its residents have opted to stay in their accommodation and have been able to continue their studies either online or in-person.

The move to offer rent discounts comes after Unite Students told its residents they could apply for a 50% discount on up to 4 weeks of rent.


Tuition Fee Petition Surpasses 200k Signatures

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

A petition calling for UK university fees to be cut by two-thirds has received more than 200,000 signatures.

The petition is calling for the Government to reduce annual tuition fees from £9,250 to £3,000.

Those behind the appeal argued that the current fee is too high given the disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the move to online teaching.

The petition has received a spike in interest since the Government announced that universities would need to move almost all teaching online as part of England's third national lockdown.

Currently, guidance for students returning to campuses is split into two groups. Those on more practical courses such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary science, education or social work will return for the spring term and will be tested twice or self-isolate for 10 days.

All other students are being told to remain where they are and will start term online, with distance learning in place until at least mid-February.

The Government has recognised the issues with regards to the cost of accommodation with students are unable to use their halls and has suggested it will investigate what arrangements universities are making to deal with concerns.


Welsh Students Call for Accommodation Refunds

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

The National Union of Students Wales (NUS Wales) has demanded a partial refund for students that are unable to use their university accommodation.

The union argued that students should not be penalised financially for following Welsh Government guidelines.

The Welsh Government said universities should have staggered returns and students should only return to campus when asked to. Therefore, some students will need to stay home longer than expected, with online learning used at the start of term.

Reports suggest only Cardiff Metropolitan University and Bangor University are offering money back. Cardiff Metropolitan will offer students living in university-managed accommodation rebates for the weeks where all their lectures and seminars are held online. Meanwhile, Bangor University is offering a 10% discount.

Whilst there have been calls for rent refunds, the Welsh government argues that rental agreements are a matter for individual institutions or landlords.