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Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
8th Feb 2023

Property experts forecast a tight UK student housing market into 2023/24

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • The major application deadline for undergraduate study in the UK passed on 25 January, and a recent analysis shows that large proportions of the available student housing have already been booked out for 2023/24 for a number of universities
  • The context for this is that student demand for housing continues to outstrip the supply of purpose-built student accommodation by a margin of roughly three to one — that is there are slightly more than three students for every available PBSA bed

“Overwhelmed and understocked,” is how Stripe Property Group describes the student housing market in the United Kingdom. Stripe is a UK-based property developer and purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) provider, and it is raising alarm bells, even at this early stage, about the availability of housing for incoming students in the 2023/24 academic year.

Stripe's previous research in the sector highlights that demand for student housing considerably outstrips supply across the UK. The developer estimates that there are now three students in higher education for every PBSA bed available.

"[As of 2020/21, there were] 2,180,419 full-time university students across the UK, 8% more than there were prior to the pandemic (2019/20)," says a Stripe analysis. "At the same time, there are just 697,734 student beds available to them and while this has been steadily increasing, this number has grown by just 6% when compared to pre-pandemic levels…That’s a current shortfall of almost 1.5 million student beds to meet the demand required across the PBSA." [Editor's note: the UK's Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) reports just under 2.3 million full-time students in higher education in 2021/22, representing a 4.2% increase from the levels noted above for 2020/21.]

“Unfortunately, for every one student that does find a place to live, there are now more than two who won’t and this lack of affordable, purpose-built living can cause an immense amount of stress and anxiety at a time when they should be focussing solely on their studies," adds Stripe's Managing Director James Forrester.

Bookings up at application deadline

UCAS' application deadline for most undergraduate programmes in the UK has just passed on 25 January, and a more recent analysis from Stripe reveals that much of the PBSA housing stock in the country is already booked for coming academic year.

The developer analysed demand for PBSA stock in the postal codes surrounding the top 50 universities in the UK. It found a range of bookings for 2023/24, with University of York at the top end of range with 75% of PBSA beds already booked. Others, such as University of Bath (54%) or Queen Mary University of London (42%), had roughly half of PBSA stock already spoken for. At the lower end were institutions like Harper Adams University (35%) and the University of Glasgow (20%).

“We can appreciate that there’s always going to be high demand for a spot at one of the nation’s best universities, but the burning issue of student accommodation availability is one that is impacting students the length and breadth of the nation," said Mr Forrester. "As our research shows, over 70% of currently listed student rental stock has already been taken surrounding some universities [in the run-up to the January 2023 UCAS deadline]. This really highlights the uphill struggle facing many students."

As reflected in our recent coverage otherwise, the UK hardly has a monopoly on a tight student housing market. The same pattern is playing out in countries across Europe, and in other leading destinations as well.

For additional background, please see:

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