Empiric Student Property Oust Chief Executive Paul Hadaway

Posted by Richard Ward

Empiric Student Property has terminated, with immediate effect, the employment of its Chief Executive Paul Hadaway.

Tim Attlee, co-founder and Chief Investment Officers, has agreed to assume the additional role of acting Chief Executive and will work alongside Chief Financial Officer Lynee Fennah.

In the company's latest trading update, the firm found what it described as "financial and operating inefficiencies within the Group and its supply chain", which adversely impacted the Group's performance.

Management will now implement a comprehensive action plan to correct the issues raised.

Commenting on the dismal of Mr Hadaway, Chairman of Empiric Student Property, Baroness Dean, said: "The Board is confident that Empiric will continue to deliver on its operational efficiencies under Tim Attlee as acting CEO and Lynne Fennah as CFO, together leading the executive and operational teams. They have a deep knowledge of Empiric's business and operations and have led on shaping and implementing its strategies.

"They are already implementing significant financial and operational improvements and cost savings arising from the Company Business Review, which the Board expects will deliver growth in operating margin, dividend cover and total shareholder return through 2018 and beyond.

"The Board acknowledges and thanks Mr Hadaway for his significant contribution to the business and wishes him well for the future."

The termination of Paul Hadaway comes less than three after the company scaled back its dividends and warned of disappointing lettings in Aberdeen and Cardiff.

The University of Aberdeen Faces Legal Action Over South Korea Campus

Posted by Richard Ward in

The University of Aberdeen has been threatened with legal action over its delayed plans to open a new campus in South Korea.

In 2015 The University of Aberdeen announced it had signed an agreement to establish a campus in the southern city of Hadong. The university was due to open in September last year, but the opening of the campus has been delayed on multiple occasions due to lower than expected demand.

The university will subsequently hold talks later this month, as it looks to resolve the issue with its partners the Gyeongsangnamdo Prefecture, the Gwangyang Bay Area Free Economic Zone Authority and Hadong County.

Under the agreement, the university secured funding from the Korean ministry of trade, and now local authorities have threatened legal action to recoup the money spent on building the campus if it doesn't open by March next year.

The campus had originally intended to offer courses covering oil and gas, but Aberdeen University now wants to move towards courses in renewable energy.

A university spokesman said: "The downturn in the oil and gas industry has led to reduced demand for the types of degrees in offshore engineering originally envisaged for Hadong, which has been clearly demonstrated by low application levels.

"Despite many efforts to adapt to the downturn and change the focus of the campus towards programmes which were more relevant to the new market conditions, we have not yet received the necessary support in Korea to achieve this."

If the site does eventually open, it will make Aberdeen the UK's first university to have a campus in South Korea.

Jo Johnson to Push Two Year Degrees

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Universities minister Jo Johnson has announced that students in England will be offered two-year degrees, saving students £5,500 in tuition fees.

Mr Johnson said he wants to "break the mould" of a system where three-year courses have "crowded out" more flexible ways of studying.

Undergraduate courses will be condensed in accelerated courses, with fees 20% less than a three-year course. Although the Office for Fair Access says the plan could help widen opportunities, Labour's shadow education secretary said there was no evidence it would help stop the huge drop in part-time students.

Labour's Angela Rayner also said that the condensed degrees would mean more expensive tuition fees. With costs at about £11,000 per year compared to the current £9,250.

However, along with overall tuition fee debt being reduced, students will save on a year's living costs and will be able to enter the jobs market a year earlier. The plan is also expected to be cheaper for government, which would see its tuition fee loans being reduced.

The idea of a two-year course is not new, but Mr Johnson is pushing to create more value for money after students revealed they thought they were not getting value from their tuition fees.

It's also hoped the more flexible approach will be attractive to mature students, whose numbers have been declining.

Mr Johnson said: "This policy will be particularly attractive for mature students who are looking to change their skills and adapt to changes in the economy - and who might want to go through higher education at a faster pace."

Unite Purchases 885-bed Oxford Development Scheme

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Unite Students has acquired a student accommodation development site in Oxford.

The new purpose-built student accommodation will provide a total of 885 beds and will be delivered in time for the 2019-20 academic year. Development costs are expected to be in the region of £75 million, with anticipated returns in line with the company's targets for University Partnerships.

Unite has agreed commercial terms with Oxford Brookes University for 25-year nominations agreement covering the site, which will extend its partnership with the company to 1,350 beds.

Commenting on the deal, Richard Smith, CEO of Unite Students, said: "This acquisition represents another exciting step in Unite's strategy of building long term partnerships with high quality universities.

"It also shows our ability to continue adding to our market-leading portfolio of buildings in locations where there is a shortage of affordable high-quality student accommodation and we can exploit our service platform to drive operating efficiencies."

Meanwhile, Brendan Casey, Registrar and Chief Operating Officer at Oxford Brookes University, added: "Oxford Brookes University is pleased to be working with Unite to provide quality accommodation for students in Oxford. Purpose built, managed halls of residence is a preferred option for the University as it helps meet an increasing demand for student accommodation while relieving pressure on the local housing needs."

Manchester Students Launch Petition to House Rough Sleepers

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

Hundreds of students have appealed to Manchester University to allow the homeless to occupy vacant rooms in Owens Park in Fallowfield.

Students at the University of Manchester have launched a petition and believe the scheme could work by giving the homeless a temporary lease for a month. There are particularly concerns for those living on the streets due to the expected cold weather other the festive season.

The petition has already gains more than 300 signatures and will be delivered to the University of Manchester's Residential Services Director.

However, university bosses have already rejected the idea.

A spokesman for the University of Manchester said: "Unfortunately, all of our accommodation sites are occupied by students during the Christmas period. Furthermore, the University's halls are not permitted to be occupied by non-students during the academic year or they will lose their status as student residences.

"However, we are extremely active in helping people in our community who are homeless. Through our employment programme, The Works, we have successfully provided jobs at the University to previously homeless people. We also are signatories to the Manchester Homelessness Charter and as part of this commitment, staff and students are supported by the University to volunteer and fundraise within the city."

£75m Cardiff Scheme on Track for 2019 Opening

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Plans to build a £75m student accommodation development in Cardiff have taken a step forward after a main contractor was appointed.

Located on Glossop Road, the former West Wing of Cardiff Royal Infirmary, is being demolished to make way for a 644-bed student development, which is due to become operational in time for the 2019-20 academic year.

The project is being delivered by the development arm of Mace, who confirmed that Galliford Try has been selected as the main contractor.

The scheme will consist of a mixture of apartments, studio flats and cluster accommodation.

Commenting on the development, Mace's chief operating office for the site, David Grover, said: "The appointment of a contractor marks a major step for our student housing portfolio.

"Over the last two years, Mace has been strategically investing in a diverse portfolio of student housing projects across the UK's major university towns. We are continuing this approach and are still looking for potential development sites."

Meanwhile Gaillford's south west area director, Mark Wuthoff, added: "We are delighted to have been trusted by Mace with this much-needed student accommodation project for Cardiff.

"We have an excellent track record in providing high-quality accommodation within Wales and we look forward to building on that reputation at Glossop Road in conjunction with all the stakeholders involved."

Huge Student Development in Coventry Begins to Take Shape

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A huge block of student accommodation in Coventry has reached a major milestone after the main structure was completed.

The Bishop Gate student accommodation, located next to Coventry's ring road, is being created by Barberry Developments and sits on the former Royal Mail sorting office.

The first phase of the £60m development will deliver 725 beds for Coventry University, which is due to open in time for the start of the academic year in September 2018.

The block will also feature two ground floor retail units, open to the public.

Now the first phase of construction is complete, contractors can move on to fitting the cladding and the installation of windows.

Commenting on the development, Barberry director Henry Bellfield, said: "This is a very important project that Barberry is delivering - it will not only transform the city's skyline but will also be a huge boost to the university and the city as a whole. It will enhance the student experience in this city."

Once complete the former Royal Mail sorting office will be transformed into purpose-built student accommodation with gardens, bicycle storage, courtyards and a frontage onto Bishop Street and Tower Street.

Universities Lose Funding Even Before Brexit

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UK Universities are already reporting a fall in the share of funding they receive from the European Union, with vice-chancellors fearing UK projects are losing out even before Brexit has taken place.

Britain's share of funds related to the Horizon 2020 project has already fallen, resulting in millions of pounds no longer available to pay for crucial research.

Figures reveal a downturn in both UK participation in, and funding from, the project. Although there are some general fluctuations in funding, universities are now seeing a downward trend across several key indicators.

There are concerns that Brussels is reluctant to fund UK projects, despite the government agreeing to underwrite scientific research funding once Britain has officially left the EU.

Commenting on the figures, Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, said: "It highlights the urgent need for clarity on the UK's participation in Horizon 2020 beyond Brexit and, while the UK is still a member of the EU, the need to communicate that the UK's universities and researchers are still eligible to participate and apply for funding through EU research and innovation programmes.

"The UK benefits enormously from the access to vital networks, funding and talent Horizon 2020 provides. It allows researchers to collaborate with world-leading experts on life-changing research, with knock-on benefits for the economy, society and individuals in the UK."

According to Labour, the UK's share of funding from Horizon 2020 has fallen by more than £100m in the year to September.

Maslow Capital Completes Three PBSA deals

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Maslow Capital has completed deals for three purpose-built student accommodation schemes valued at around £65m.

The developments are located in Durham, Nottingham and Coventry, and will result in the delivery of 538 beds.

The Durham accommodation will see the delivery of 227 beds located a mile from the main university campus. More than 100 units will be constructed in Nottingham and a further 211 beds delivered in Coventry.

Maslow has also announced the launch of a specialist PBSA division which will focus on providing bespoke lending and funding facilities for developers in the student accommodation sector.

To date, the lender has supported the development of 10 PBSA assets, which will deliver more than 1,600 new beds, with a combined GDV of more than £160m.

Commenting on the latest deals, CEO and co-founder of Maslow Capital, Ellis Sher said: "These three deals add significant scale to our PBSA portfolio and underline the compelling opportunities we continue to see in this exciting and growing market segment.

"PBSA has delivered attractive returns for investors and developers over the past decade, helped by growing demand from large pension funds and other institutional investors.

"The fundamentals of PBSA, sustainable income streams together with stable yields should sustain the growth of the sector going forward, and our ability to provide both senior and stretch senior funding packages positions us well to grow our exposure to this niche in the future.

"Our new dedicated PBSA division will be resourced by a team with considerable experience in this asset class, which will provide developers with a specialist service from a lender that understands the intricacies of their sector."

Aberystwyth University Approve Upgrade to Student Hall

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Aberystwyth University has approved a £12m package as part of its plans to refurbish its historic Pantycelyn student halls.

The University's Council agreed to fund the upgrade, which includes developing 200 en-suite rooms as well public social spaces.

The refurbished hall is expected to re-open in September 2019.

Now funding has been agreed, the University will resubmit a planning application to Ceredigion County Council after a request to include a sprinkler system as part of the fire strategy for the building.

The Welsh Government has earmarked £5m towards the project as part of its wider 21st Century Schools and Education Programme.

Commenting on the plans, Education Secretary Kirsty Williams, said: "Pantycelyn has a long and distinguished history and I'm pleased that plans are in place to reopen the halls by 2019.

"Subject to final approvals, this funding from our 21st Century Schools and Education Programme has the potential to transform the halls and offer a modern new home for future generations of students."