Cambridge Council Undertakes Extensive Student Housing Study

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A comprehensive study commissioned by Cambridge City Council has shed light on student accommodation in the city.

The study will be used by the council and its partners to guide future student accommodation developments.

The report shows that in 2015-16, there were an estimated 46,132 students in Cambridge with a need for some form of student housing.

It also found that the University of Cambridge accommodated a high proportion of its students in university owned accommodation, while Anglia Ruskin University and other institutions had very little directly-owned accommodation. As a result, students at these institutions were more likely to stay in privately owned halls, shared housing or the parental home.

The assessment found the current strategy for student accommodation, which is laid out in the emerging Local Plan, is largely appropriate, but could be tweaked to strengthen the commitment to addressing the need for market and social housing, as well as student accommodation.

As a result of the study, the council is looking to make some changes to the Local Plan, to ensure that all student accommodation developments are directly linked to a particular educational institution, which has specific student housing needs.

The report also suggested the formation of a working group, consisting of council officers and representatives of higher education institutions, in order to effectively monitor student accommodation.

Councillor Kevin Blencowe, said of the report: "We recognise that there has been an increasing number of planning applications for student accommodation in Cambridge in recent years. The aim of this study was to provide us with greater understanding of student accommodation supply and demand in the city.

"This study means we have a clearer picture of student accommodation needs both now and in the future, which will help us plan how best to accommodate our student population, who are an important part of life in the city."

Mr Blencowe is to recommend the proposed modifications to the emerging Local Plan are considered by the Development Plan Scrutiny Sub Committee on 25 January.


Record Number of Top Honours Awarded

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The latest data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) indicates that the proportion of students leaving university with top honours has risen in the past five years to record highs.

HESA have reported that almost one in four (24%) students who were awarded a degree graduated with a first last year, compared with 17% in 2011-12.

The figures also show a rise in the number of students achieving a 2:1, with 73% of students in 2015-16 achieving an upper second award, compared to 66% five years earlier.

Further analysis shows a drop in the proportion of students awarded lower honours, with 22% of students achieving a 2:2 in 2015-16, and just 5% graduating with a third.

Graduate recruiters suggest there is no way of telling whether individual universities are becoming more generous in their awarding of degrees or whether standards are genuinely rising. There does however appear to be a trend in employers seeking more than a particular degree classification.

Employers have realised if they use a blunt cut-off such as a 2:1 or above they're missing out on some excellent candidates, and therefore degree classification for some recruiters has become less important.

In 2015 the global firm Ernst and Young announced its plans to remove academic and education details, including degree classifications, from its trainee application process and would decide who to interview based on candidates' performance in online tests.


Newcastle Councillors to Vote on Tighter Building Controls

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Councillors in Newcastle have been urged to approve a plan which aims to bring greater control over the number of student flats being built in the city.

At the same time, Newcastle City Council's planning committee are assessing a pair of new student accommodation blocks, which if approved would lead to a further 451 student bedrooms being built across Ouseburn and the city centre.

After six weeks of consultation with businesses, experts and residents, the council's cabinet will decide this week on whether to amend its 'Maintaining Sustainable Communities' policy which councillors argue will protect the city centre from excessive purpose-built student accommodation.

If the plans go ahead, developers will need to demonstrate their conversion or new build won't lead to an over-concentration of such developments that "could be harmful to the area's vibrancy, environmental quality and residential amenity".

The design and quality of the buildings will also be more stringently checked. In particular, purpose-built student accommodation will need to show it could be suitable for conversion into more traditional homes, to prevent the city being lumbered with empty buildings should demand for student housing change.

The council adopted a similar policy in 2011, introducing new rules to limit the number of homes in areas like Jesmond being converted to flats aimed at students.

Subsequently a boom in purpose-built accommodation close to the city centre has resulted in 9,500 new beds being created since 2007, with planning permission for more than 5,000 additional beds.

The updated policy still aims to protect areas where family homes could be built, with greater controls on the creation of large student blocks.

Ged Bell, cabinet member for investment and development said of the proposals: "Clearly now is the time to update our policies, and it's vitally important we are able to provide the right type of accommodation to suit the needs of all the communities we serve, to make sure Newcastle is an attractive place to study, live and work."


The University of London Invests £150m in New Accommodation

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The University of London is to build a 33-storey student accommodation block in Stratford, representing the first property acquisition by the university in half a century.

The £150 million building named Duncan House, was bought in partnership with University Partnership Programmes and will consist of 511 student bedrooms as well as communal space.

Chris Cobb, pro vice-chancellor and chief operating officer of the University of London, said: "This is an exciting and significant investment for the University. It's the first major property that we've acquired in 50 years and the first outside of central London.

"This investment continues our trajectory of offering students quality accommodation which balances affordability with low travel times to their place of study."

Mr Cobb also indicated that this latest development highlights their continued commitment to modernise and expand their property portfolio to meet the needs of future generations of students.

Sean O'Shea, group chief executive officer of UPP, added: "The University of London is a world-renowned institution and we are delighted to have reached financial close on this landmark transaction in east London.

"Located in the heart of Stratford, this exciting scheme will offer future generations of students' competitively priced accommodation and facilities of the highest quality."


Tighter Visa Rules Could Cost the Uk £2bn a Year

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According to forecasts produced by the Higher Education Policy Institute, a tougher stance by the Home Office towards overseas students studying at UK universities could cost the country up to £2bn a year.

The report also found that UK higher education could increase revenue from higher fees for foreign students after Britain leaves the EU, but the potential gains would be wiped out if the government insists on tightening student visa numbers.

Commenting on the report, director of Hepi, Nick Hillman said: "Were the Home Office to conduct yet another crackdown on international students, then the UK could lose out on £2bn a year just when we need to show we are open for business like never before."

Mr Hillman suggested an easy and costless solution would be to remove international students from the net migration target, which would also signal a change in direction.

The study examined what the impact could be if further efforts were made to restrict student visas as part of the government's larger strategy to force down immigration. It found that approximately 20,000 students could be deterred, and although universities would lose around £500m a year in fees, the wider UK economy could lose a further £600m a year in reduced spending.

However, the largest loss would be over £900m a year foregone in what the report described as "the detrimental impact on universities' supply chains" through lost spending and the "indirect and induced effects" on the UK economy related to this source of export income.

Deputy chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, said the report provides a "stark" warning of the possible economic loss associated with policies that restrict European or international student numbers. He argued that if universities are to continue to boost the economy and benefit communities, they will need the right support from government.


Liberty Living Reviews Its Current Stock

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UK student accommodation provider Liberty Living has commissioned Derbyshire-based WCEC Architects' to critically review its amenity and social space provision within its student accommodation portfolio.

The design and delivery team at WCEC has also been instructed to proceed with detailed designs and planning applications for pilot schemes in Newcastle, Southampton, Manchester and Liverpool.

Liberty Living's chief operating officer John Kenny said: "As an established operator of one of the largest portfolios of purpose-built student accommodation, we recognise the importance of evolving the provision of dedicated amenity spaces for our residents.

"The spaces we are creating will be multi-functional and allow our residents to enjoy an improved sense of community and social experience, with facilities such as social lounges, different types of study spaces, media rooms, games rooms, gymnasiums and private dining rooms."

Nick Riley, Board Director at WCEC Architects said of the project: "We have been on a collaborative journey with Liberty Living for some time to understand where the marketplace is now, including facilities found on campus at universities, and in considering the future needs of residents also."

WCEC is looking to design facilities which will become the new central focus for larger sites, making them a desirable destination for students, which they will want to use.

It's anticipated the project will take 2-3 years to complete, with roughly half of the portfolio being assessed. Work is due to begin on the first five schemes in 2017.


Canada Reports Increase in US Students after Trump Win

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Canadian universities have reported a strong rise in the number of applications from US students since the election, leading some to attribute the increase to Donald Trump's looming presidency.

Not all institutions agree, with some suggesting the increase is more to do with recruitment strategies and the growth of international education.

The University of Toronto has reported a 70% year-on-year increase in the number of applications from the US, whilst McGill University in Montreal reported a rise of 22%.

McGill University registrar Kathleen Massey has said it's too early to ascertain as to whether the increase is because of the election result.

"It is possible that the change in the American political landscape may be contributing to the increase in applicant numbers from the USA" but they're unable to confirm whether this was the case as they haven't directly surveyed applicants.

US applications to the University of British Columbia also reported strong growth, with 44% more applications compared to the same period in 2015.

However, Graeme Menzies, director of recruitment for the university said such numbers needed to be taken with a "pinch of salt".

International student numbers have been on the rise for a number of years and although there was a rise in those submitted before the election it's not clear whether the growth was spurred by Trump's win.

Mr Menzies said application numbers are impacted by a number of factors such Brexit, the global economy, regional conflict, currency fluctuations and the US election, making it difficult to attribute the increase to a particular factor.


Private University Expansion Plans Criticised

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A report into government plans to expand private providers in the UK's university sector have been labelled as a risk too far.

Produced by the Higher Education Policy Institute, the study highlighted that the cost of student finance for these alternative providers quadrupled in four years to £382m.

The document also warned against a high-speed process of allowing new providers to award their own degrees, however the Department for Education suggested the proposals would provide students with greater choice.

Robin Middlehurst, co-author of the report, referred to the United States, suggesting their "overly generous rules for alternative providers are a magnet for questionable business practices".

In particular, the study raised concerns about the rapid expansion in for-profit higher education colleges in the US, raising concerns about recruitment tactics, dropout rates and access to student finance support.

The Higher Education and Research Bill, which is currently before parliament, outlines a combined system for regulating traditional universities and alternative providers with the aim of encouraging a wider market for students. However, it's argued that more than two-thirds of alternative providers could still remain outside of regulations.

Currently there are more than 700 alternative providers, with nearly 300,000 students enrolled. Over 120 of these providers run courses eligible for student finance, which has seen the cost of tuition fee and maintenance loans in this sector increasing from £94m to £382m between 2010-11 and 2014-15.


Loughborough University Outlines £40m Improvement Project

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Loughborough University has submitted plans for new campus student accommodation.

The £40 million pound application includes 623 student bed spaces, as well as an Elite Athlete Centre with room for 84 beds, a central Hub building and a warden's house.

If given the go-ahead ten existing buildings on campus will be demolished to make way for the new development.

The University said around £40m would be spent on the project, which will create sport specific accommodation in an effort to secure Loughborough's place as a training centre for elite athletes.

According to the design and access statement submitted as part of the application: "More places on campus will reduce the need for private off campus accommodation."

The project is due to start in August 2017, with completion scheduled for the start of the 2019 academic year.

Chief operating officer at the university, Richard Taylor, said: "Our community partners continue to highlight a wish for the University to invest in student accommodation on campus so as to minimise the impact on housing in the town and the new proposed plans are our response to this.

"This is an exciting project. It will deliver benefits on a number of fronts and will be of huge value to the University and our communities."


Government Criticised for Failing to Communicate Change in Tuition Fees

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The Government has been criticised for not announcing changes to tuition fees on the Department for Education's website.

The legislation that will allow universities to increase tuition fees in England to £9,250 is expected to impact more than 500,000 students beginning their courses in the Autumn.

The changes to the fees were officially placed onto a government website last week but were not announced by the Department for Education. Opposition parties have called the move "shabby", arguing the move was designed to avoid scrutiny, something the Department for Education has rejected.

The regulations relating to the change in fees were published on December 15th on legislation.gov.uk, the same day school league tables were released.

According to Labour's Gordon Marsden, the government was trying to maintain a low profile in regards to the increase in fees.

Meanwhile Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: "This is a shabby little way to announce something, hiding it away in the far-flung corner of a government website.

"This shows the government at their worst, avoiding scrutiny and debate."

The intention to increase tuition fees had been announced in the summer and will enable nearly all universities to apply the higher amount of £9,250 per year. Institutions also have the option to apply the increased fees to existing students.

Defending the increases, Universities have argued that the value of tuition fees have been eroded by inflation and they needed an increase to remain financial sustainable.