Cambridge Council Undertakes Extensive Student Housing Study

Posted by Richard Ward in , , ,

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.

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.

Exeter PBSA Goes Ahead Despite Objections

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The approval of a student accommodation block in Exeter has sparked a debate into whether the city needs such developments.

The development in question is that of the former pub in Paris Street, which will be demolished and replaced by a six-storey block with 107 bedrooms. It will also include a private gym, cinema, laundry room and common room.

Despite the application receiving 38 objections and a 2,297-signature petition against the plans, councillors on the planning committee voted to allow the scheme.

Some have argued whether the recent growth in purpose-built student accommodation is necessary, whilst others say it helps take the pressure off the city's existing housing stock.

A University of Exeter spokesman said: "As a world-leading university, Exeter attracts students and staff from around the world, and they contribute significantly to the local economy and the community.

"We are working to accommodate more students on campus. In recent years we have built £130 million worth of new accommodation for 2,600 students. New developments are planned on the Streatham Campus which will provide accommodation for around 1,500 students.

The university continued, saying: "Decisions on whether private developments for student-focused accommodation within the city are appropriate are for the relevant planning authority to make, having taken into consideration the views of local residents."

A planning officer's report, recommending the approval of the development, indicated that despite the objections raised, the university's growth plans mean "significantly" more additional bedrooms will be required and therefore applications for purpose-built student accommodation should be welcomed on appropriate sites.

Planners Delay Decision to Increase Cornwall Student Cap

Posted by Richard Ward in

Cornwall councillors have delayed the decision on whether to increase the cap on the number of students at Cornwall's university campus.

Members of Cornwall Council's strategic planning committee met last week to discuss an application for the cap on university students at the Penryn Campus to be lifted from 5,000 to 7,500.

However, councils deferred the decision as they wanted to ensure additional purpose-built student accommodation can be provided and further details could be submitted in regards to the future plans of Falmouth University and the University of Exeter.

The application had been recommended for approval on the condition that more student housing is built and Committee members acknowledged the benefits the university brings to Falmouth and the whole of Cornwall.

Concerns were raised over the number of houses currently being used for student accommodation in the town and the overall impact this was having on Falmouth residents.

The university said it wanted to increase the amount of purpose-built student accommodation, with plans to provide an extra 1,467 room up to 2020.

The deferral on whether to increase the cap was agreed by 12 votes to 8 so that more information could be provided.

A statement issued by the universities of Falmouth and Exeter after the meeting said: "We will work closely with Cornwall Council’s planning officers to ensure members have all the information they need, and to explain in greater detail the work undertaken by both Universities to increase access to higher education in Cornwall. We hope they will be able to make a decision at the earliest opportunity."

Canada Reports Increase in US Students after Trump Win

Posted by Richard Ward in ,

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."

Tough times ahead for UK PBSA sector

Posted by Tom Walker in , ,

The Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) sector in the UK has experienced a huge growth in popularity over the last few years, with all manner of financial institutions - ranging from sovereign wealth funds and pension & insurance firms to banks and Family Offices - investing in the asset class with hopes of realising a reliable return on investment that out performs most other asset classes.

However, with £5.9bn poured into the sector in 2015 and a forecast £4bn in 2016, there are fears that the UK's PBSA sector faces a tough decade ahead. A report by EY, a consultancy firm, predicts that demand for such accommodation will falter over the mid-term thanks to a dip in the demographic profile of UK 18 and 19 year olds, a growth in apprenticeship programmes and possible restrictions on international student visas.

The analysis, which predicts domestic demand for PBSA accommodation hitting a low in '21/'22, estimates that the international student acceptance rate to UK Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) would need to increase 63% on current levels to plug the deficit - unlikely given the current Government's immigration policy direction.

The outcome of this gloomy mid-term outlook is that developers and investors of PBSA will need to more critically appraise the current and forecast supply and demand dynamics for such developments on a city-by-city basis. Lower-tier universities will likely take the brunt of the forecast demand-crunch as reputable HEIs (such as those in the Russell Group) remain cushioned by undergraduates' desires for reputable degrees and future employability.

Even so, cities hosting top-tier universities will become more sought-after by investors and bids for suitable development plots will likely be driven higher as a consequence. As for existing accommodation assets in cities already exhibiting structural oversupply, competition for prospective tenants will naturally exert a downward pressure on pricing as owners of the assets look to maximise occupancy rates. In both cases, the outcome will likely result in a compression in income returns.

That said, for those investors willing to stick by their investments long-term, the report estimates a recovery in demand by the '24/'25 academic cycle, all else being equal.