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It’s been an interesting couple of years for the UK in terms of its international student numbers.

The government’s International Education Strategy has a target of hosting 600,000 international students by 2030, despite the current complexities of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.

Hitting the target would mean the industry’s economic impact reaching £35bn annually, making it an attractive aim.

Alan Boswell – MPU

The 2019/20 academic year was certainly a good one for non-EU student numbers, with enrolments shooting up by 59,000 students, taking non-EU total enrolments to 556,625.

So, what does this mean for pressure on student accommodation?

UK rental guarantor service Housing Hand has been working with both domestic and international students since 2013, helping them to secure accommodation in their university town or city by acting as their guarantor.

The market has changed a great deal since then, with a major boom in Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA), although figures from Glenigan show that planning consents for such properties have dropped every year since 2017.

Nor are PBSA homes suited to all students.

Many prefer to live in halls, while figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that around 30% of students opt for private rented accommodation.

Jeremy Robinson, Group Managing Director, Housing Hand commented:

“The UK has an interesting spread of student accommodation, with some university cities suffering from a deficit of suitable homes and others a sizeable glut.”

“The fluctuations in student movement patterns that the pandemic has created is further complicating this picture.”

“However, the long-term view is a positive one for student numbers, particularly those from overseas.”

“This means that the accommodation sector needs to prepare to house increasing numbers of talented young people over the years ahead and to do so in an affordable way.”

Affordability is a key concern for many students and especially so for those without a rental guarantor.

At a time when many parents and guardians have been furloughed, have lost their jobs or face the prospect of losing their jobs, signing up to guarantee a child’s rent becomes a far more daunting prospect.

This is one of the reasons that Housing Hand has seen such a sharp rise in the number of domestic students using its services.

Between November 2019 and November 2020, demand from UK students increased by 12%.

While international student numbers dropped over the same period, in line with trends across the sector as a whole, the long-term prospects remain bright.

Terry Mason, Group Operations Director, Housing Hand said:

“International demand for university education in the UK has necessarily been curbed by the pandemic and its associated travel restrictions but the longer-term outlook is one of growing demand.”

“We need to ensure that appropriate accommodation is in place, therefore, for the growing body of students that the UK will be housing.”

“That includes an emphasis on affordability, to ensure that young people can focus on their studies, rather than having to find several months’ rent upfront because they don’t have a guarantor.”

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