New survey sheds light on trends in student accommodation

CUBO and JLL’s study found a strong correlation between better quality residences and higher occupation rates

A new survey of student accommodation has found a strong correlation between better quality residences and higher occupation rates.

The team behind the study – CUBO and real estate advisors JLL – claim that it is the first aiming to identify sector trends in the sector from nationally collected data.

Researchers received feedback from 20 universities regarding their purpose-built student accommodation, with key findings including:

  • At the start of the research period (1 December 2017) a quarter of the universities had 100% occupancy while two-thirds had above 97%. The lower and higher ends of the rent ladder experienced the lowest initial occupancy. Over the course of the year (up to 1 May 2018), 73% of halls experienced a drop in occupancy, with the largest fall (35%) occurring in a residence with no communal facilities
  • Older, less well-maintained buildings had the lowest of occupancy; the worse the building, the more likely that students would move out mid-year
  • Buildings with shared bathroom facilities were less popular
  • In off-campus residences, there appeared to be no correlation between occupancy and on-site facilities such as common room, dedicated study room, café/bar, etc
  • The lowest performing halls more likely to be further away from the campus and library, despite generally being at the cheaper end of the market; the lower the rent, the larger the reduction in occupancy

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Although not exhaustive, the findings should nevertheless prove useful to a market recently valued at £53bn, says the CEO of CUBO, Jan Capper.

“It’s been a valuable and interesting opportunity to look at this area, especially in the context of the demographic dip in 18-year-olds, Brexit uncertainties, government funding review and growth of the private sector,” she said.

“We recognise that taking snapshots in this way is a simplified reflection of the year-round occupancy, but we consider them useful indicators that are easily understandable, quick to produce for our CUBO members, and relatively consistent across the institutions.”

The largest fall in occupancy occurred in residences with no communal facilities

“Many of the findings bear out what we are seeing across all of our work with universities, which is all around students’ flight to better-quality accommodation,” said director of higher education for JLL, Robert Kingham.

“Some of the findings were intriguingly counter-intuitive, though, and suggest that received wisdom about what makes a popular hall needs reappraising. We look forward to continuing this research in more depth in 2020 – this kind of unique study is only possible through the strong collaboration of CUBO members.”

The 2020 survey of CUBO members will take place this spring, with all participants receiving an individualised report.

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