Coronavirus has been devastating for students, universities and private sector student housing over the last few months. The exponential rise in cases in the UK in March set off chaos across the board, with students fleeing universities to head home. This has had huge impacts on the private rental market, with the National Code estimating that purpose build student accommodation (PBSA) suffered over £563 million in lost rent revenue this year. PBSA will want to get as many students in for the next full academic year as possible to make up for losses experienced in the previous few months.
How are universities planning on getting students back this fall?
UK universities are rushing to develop plans to attract home and international students back in the 2020 academic year, with major focuses on providing some semblance of a social life while social distancing. These plans include ‘social bubbles’ of students grouped by year and subject, who will live together and have the same teaching schedules. Staffordshire University is predicting that these bubbles will have around 8 students. The main idea is that the entire protective bubble will move onto the campus at once, avoiding crossover with other bubbles.
However, most UK universities are not suited to accommodating groups of students together – they often are only able to provide housing to freshers, and traditionally the older years move into the private rental market in groups. These students are particularly wary of signing year-long leases at the moment, with planned groups for private homes falling apart as students defer or are stuck behind international border closures.
PBSA could be a vital part of socially distanced housing plans
I believe that this could be an excellent opportunity for teamwork between universities and PBSA to provide the best arrangements for students and maximise the number of students coming back to university this fall. Universities could assign students to a bubble and provide PBSA group options rather than forcing the students to sort out their own house-share. PBSA has many advantages over traditional student house-shares, including amenities like study spaces, games rooms, gyms and professional cleaning services more suited to a socially distanced lifestyle.
With the UCAS firm choice deadline now passing, now is the time to reach out to universities to develop group accommodation options to advertise to students. Making a push now can fill rooms that might otherwise stay empty with international and exchange students opting to stay home. Feel free to get in touch with me for more information on how to make your PBSA properties ready for social distancing and please share if you have a good plan to help accommodate protective bubbles with universities.