UCAS Journey to a Million highlights PBSA challenges

UCAS have launched their Journey to a Million debate which highlights some of the effects of the supply/demand imbalance on the PBSA sector.

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UCAS have launched their Journey to a Million insight debate, which has highlighted the serious future implications of the student accommodation supply and demand imbalance on the purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) sector and the challenges it is facing.

Insight from UCAS has led to predictions that there could be up to one million applicants for higher education by 2030; a 30% increase and double the numbers seen in 2006.

UCAS, in partnership with Knight Frank and Unite Students, have invited 50 key thinkers as part of the Journey to a Million national debate to give their view on the challenges and opportunities affecting the sector.

“The UK has long been an attractive choice for domestic and international students. Now demand is set to rise even further adding to the UK’s shortfall of high-quality, affordable student accommodation. Pbsa providers, including Unite Students, have a valuable role to play alongside university partners to help meet this challenge, but action is required now to plan for this expected growth. PBSA is not just about providing a bed to sleep in. High-quality accommodation built specifically with students in mind has a range of positive impacts on those who live there, from improved mental health to greater success and, we believe, better degree outcomes.”

Richard Smith, Chief Executive, Unite Students

There are currently 2.2m full-time students in the UK – equivalent to around three students per available bed in PBSA.

Projections made by Unite Students, which also looked at growth in postgraduate students, suggest that by the end of the decade there will be an additional 400,000 full-time students seeking some form of student accommodation.

“Accommodation plays a big part in student experience – and our surveys show its importance is increasing as a decision-making factor. The Journey to a Million applicants in 2030 presents a range of challenges and opportunities – with student accommodation being one of the most high-profile. Not only do we need to consider how we cater for the surge in demand from students, but also what happens when the 18-year-old population starts to decline after 2030.”

Sander Kristel, Chief Operating Officer (COO), UCAS

Some of the key speakers in the debate included Neil Armstrong and Merelina Sykes from Unite Students, Kieron Broadhead from the University of Southampton, Chris Hale from Universities UK, and Neil Armstrong from Knight Frank who have shared their views on the situation.

“The end of the decade may seem a long way off – most students who will be applying for the 2030 cycle haven’t started secondary school yet – but development takes time. Taking a scheme through planning to completion takes anything from three to five years. That puts an even greater urgency on the need to adequately plan for this expected growth now.”

Neil Armstrong and Merelina Sykes, Joint Heads of Student Property, Knight Frank and Richard Smith, Chief Executive, Unite Students

“Developing a significant volume of new pbsa or growing the size of any private rental market will take many years. Working with local councils and partners now is a necessary foundational step in preparing for a future we can see coming towards us.”

Kieron Broadhead, Senior Executive Director, Students and Infrastructure, and Deputy Vice-President (Operations), University of Southampton.

“As applicants and student numbers increase, there will also be pressures on the wider student experience. In planning for growth, institutions will need to take a responsible approach that builds in the necessary support for areas such as mental health and employability. Other areas, such as student accommodation will not be totally within the direct control of institutions, but they will need to work with partners on a planned and integrated approach, working not only with accommodation providers but also with local authorities and community stakeholders. Again, making sure the student voice is part of this will be critical.”

Chris Hale, writing in his former role as Director of Policy, Universities UK

“As UCAS kicks off this important debate, we are proud to be invited to join the conversation in partnership with Unite. It is critical that, as we near the huge milestone of having one million student applicants by 2030, we will plan ahead for the strain this will inevitably put on the need and demand for student housing. In many popular university towns and cities, the availability of student accommodation is far outweighed by the number of students searching for a place to live. The planning, development and delivery of PBSA takes time, which puts a greater urgency on the need to adequately plan for the expected future growth of the UK’s student population.”

Neil Armstrong, Joint Head of Student Property, Knight Frank

Significant contributions to UCAS’ national debate on the projected Journey to a Million insight focus on the challenges of student experience and accommodation in a more competitive world, particularly with the implications of the supply and demand imbalance that the PBSA sector is experiencing.