Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
Student Housing: PBSA Enjoys another Decade of Demographic-Driven Demand
Higher education institutions and providers of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) have navigated a highly challenging operating environment throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. However, investment markets remained optimistic because of the positive demographic outlook.
Demand for Student Housing Remains Consistently High
Student housing is a vulnerable sector primarily because of short leases and inconsistent cash flows. This sector is more exposed to economic disruption. However, during the pandemic, the sector amply demonstrated its resilience. And this was not the first time.
At various times in the past, when economic conditions were not good, people have increasingly chosen to upgrade and sharpen their skills instead of trying their luck in the uncertain job market. The situation created by the pandemic was not like the usual economic turndown. It produced one of the severest operating environments for the student housing sector. Occupancy was severely impacted as the imposition of lockdown forced campuses to close.
Reasons Why The UK Student Housing Sector Stood Firm
Travel restrictions during the pandemic were less limiting across Continental Europe than they were for the UK. It helped in providing some stability to occupancy. By the first quarter of 2021, occupancy was on an upward swing. A closer look at the students' housing collection numbers reveals that it never fell below 94 percent.
The pandemic brought school exams to a halt. Students in a few countries were offered center-assessed grades. This left a larger than-normal proportion of school leavers with the scores needed for admission to a university in the UK. Also, the number of 18-year-olds looking to gain higher education increased by a significant percentage as compared to earlier years.
UK Lenient Stance to International Students
The most surprising development was the increase in demand for academic enrolment from international students. It was expected that students would be deterred by the pandemic. Shockingly, UK applications and acceptances improved significantly for the 2020/21 academic year. International enrolments set a new record. Experts believe that the UK and other European countries benefitted because other countries took a tough stance on international students.
UK Domestic Demographics To Support Demand For The Next Decade
In 2020/21, around 40 percent of 18-year-olds applied for a full-time undergraduate course in the UK. More applicants also achieved their entry requirements than ever before. Enrolment figures also registered record numbers.
With the economic disruption caused by the pandemic easing, and the exodus of much of the European workforce since BREXIT and the economy showing a cyclical upswing, job prospects are expected to improve further. This may cause a slight dip in application rates. Alternatively if the UK seeks to be known as a high-wage economy, the demand for good UK qualifications could drive yet higher. There is a clear upward trend in the participation rate, which is unlikely to change. A small dip in rates in the near term is a possibility. But application rates of 40 percent or higher can be sustained over the next decade.
What the Stats Reveal
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimates that the UKs 18-year-old population in 2020 was at its lowest level in 20 years. The good news is that the countrys 18-year-old population is now growing again and is expected to remain consistent. It is a clear indicator that the largest pool of demand for UK higher education can grow by up to 2 percent annually over the coming decade. This can establish a highly supportive backdrop for student accommodation. Another interesting piece of data is the steady growth of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA). In 2021, PBSA registrations recorded the highest numbers.
It is seen that students have a marked preference for PBSAs over traditional landlord-run residences due to quality issues, primarily for security in the first year, but then for community in the second and third years. Non-EU intakes have also increased impressively for both undergraduate and post-grad students.
The strong domestic demand has balanced the effects of a 50 percent drop in EU intakes. There is also evidence that some groups of Non-EU students don"t like cluster flat living so perhaps this will shape the mix of units in years to come As there is continuous growth in domestic and non-EU international students, it is expected that 2022 will surpass 2021 in terms of the number of applications.
Why Investing In Student Housing Is Recommended
UK government policy supports higher education students from overseas. They account for more than 20 percent of the student population in the country. With more support expected, this percentage will increase substantially by 2030. Lets ot forget they pay often three times the fees of the domestic student. PBSA landlords are planning to address the surge in demand by providing student housing at competitive prices for domestic students.
The PBSA sector guarantees revenue generation and a fundamentally solid demand outlook. With international students being historically over-represented in the PBSA, the consistent demand will fuel robust growth and hopes to.see more non first year students accommodated in years to come.
Ringley A Trusted PBSA Resource
Ringley houses students in Coventry, London and Sheffield alongside traditional BTR accommodation. As an operator Ringleyrefurb and turn around hundreds of flats in a matter of two weeks and have multi-lingual teams greeting new students as they arrive. Ringley as Asset Manager support the deployment of capital throughout project monitoring through to mo ilisation and as operating partner beyond. This One-Stop solution for low-cost PBSAs specializes in providing end-to-end solutions for owners and local developers. Ringley also support institutional investors, real estate investment managers, overseas funds, family offices, and landlords in education to create value through strategic partnerships.
Ringley offers solutions based on the student experience. With over 25 years of operational experience and access to effective facilities management, Ringley has the perfect business model for entrepreneurs targeting the PBSA sector. The process can begin with 'Virgin Land', the name of Ringley digital land search company 'your outsourced land department'. Once the planning is secured, next comes managing the asset. This includes appointing a project team and an efficient development manager. They handle everything, from early life cycle project monitoring prior to practical completion, mobilization, lease-up, and the journey through ESG strategies to a stabilized investment.
Mary-Anne Bowring FIRPM FRICS FARLA FCABE Founder/Head of Asset Management
Strategic partnerships, holistic delivery/ opportunities, growth, value engineering, thought leadership
Ian Barber MD BTR Mobilisation & Leasing
Runs HQ & site lease-up teams. Drives rent pricing, mobilisation, marketing, happy residents!
Jon Curtis MRICS Head of Building Engineering
Chartered Building Surveyor. Lectures on EWS1 & building safety. Runs CapEx programmes.
Kate Robinson MIRPM MD Blocks/FM Management (London Region)
Master plan setup, ops and staffing and resident engagement. ISO45001 champion.
Lee Harle Partner Ringley Law
Plot conveyancing. Debt litigation. Group Company Secretary.
Anthony Kingdon MIRPM AssocRICS MD Blocks/FM Management (North Region)
Stakeholder engagement. Mixed tenure specialist. Budget management. Plant audit, PPM compliance.
Chris Georgalis MRICS Head of Commercial Valuation
Chartered Valuer. Rental valuations: retail, leisure. IRR modelling and valuations for secured lending. Compulsory purchase & rent reviews
Nichola Pughe MRICS Head of Residential Valuation
Chartered Valuer. Rental development & mixed use valuations, IRR modelling. Leasehold enfranchisement specialist
Libby Chen MSc Compliance Manager
Operational Plant & Equipment strategy PPM Compliance lead, Asset tagging Client major projects
Dipesh Parekh Director PlanetRent
Customer centric, vertically integrated PropTech/fin-tech solutions.
Leana Aristodemou MIRPM MARLA AssocRICS Strategic lead: ESG & Asset Business Plan delivery
Financial modelling, valuation analyst to support underwriting & fund reporting.
Natalie Birmingham Helpdesk Support Manager
Trainer & Helpdesk Manager: people, systems,contractors. ISO45001 supply chain accreditation.
Steve Norman Planning Director
Land due diligence (opportunities & constraints) Has contributed to a number of award winning schemes.