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CoStar Column: Record enrolment figures give rise to optimism in the student housing sector

By Paul Norman - Tuesday, February 06, 2018 11:53

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Figures recently released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency will be largely welcomed by the UK’s student accommodation sector as rising overall student numbers point towards a steady pipeline of supply, writes Ed Fisher, Managing director, Future Generation.

The statistics for 2016/17 point to a 2% rise in overall participation in higher education – up to almost 2.32m in the past academic year.

Positive trends include the continued growth in the number of first year students taking first degrees and the number of first year students undertaking postgraduate taught courses in 2016/17 reaching its highest point in 10 years.

Clearly there are many positives the sector can take from these latest figures. Overall participation remains on an upward trajectory and should support demand in the short-to-medium term at the very least. Although there has been something of a building boom in recent years, we appear to be some way off saturation point.

 As the costs of higher education rise, so too do the expectations of students who expect a return on their significant investment. This presents an opportunity for those student accommodation providers who can offer not only living space, but also networking and career development opportunities alongside technological innovation.

Fears of a Brexit related slowdown in student numbers have yet to translate into reality, although most applications for the 2016/17 academic year would have been made before the referendum decision was known. Student numbers from EU member states were up 5.8% year-on-year to just over 134,000 while applicants from outside the EU amounted to just over 307,000, an increase of 1% year-on-year.

The UK’s high education system remains a key draw and should be treated as a vital export in the post Brexit landscape. With overseas students said to make an annual contribution of some £20bn to the economy, the government will come under some pressure to offer clarity to existing and prospective students.

Ed Fisher, Managing director, Future Generation (

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