Research by UniHomes, the UK’s leading student accommodation platform, has revealed that more and more of us are opting to go to university, meaning the demand for student accommodation is greater than it’s ever been.

The research shows that the overall population has increased by 3% in the last five years, meaning the UK is now home to nearly 1.7m more people.

At the same time, the total number of students across the UK opting to pursue higher education has increased by 9% with nearly 200,000 more of us heading to university each year.

Alan Boswell – MPU

As a result, the percentage of the population opting for higher education has grown consistently since 2015.

In 2015, university students accounted for 3.6% of the total UK population, but this has climbed consistently year on year, with them now making up 3.8% of the UK.

According to Cushman and Wakefield, the level of student-specific accommodation reaching the market has climbed at an average of 5.2% a year since 2015.

Purpose-built student accommodation totals just 660,000 homes in total. As a result, many students are reliant on the private rental sector to find a place to live while studying.

Unfortunately, a string of government legislative changes to buy-to-let stamp duty and tax relief for landlords has also caused stock levels in the PRS sector to fall across England alone.

The figures from UniHomes shows that PRS stock levels in England have fallen by an annual average of -0.2% since 2015.

Today, there are 107,000 less rental homes across the UK market when compared to the peak of 4.832m rental properties in 2016.

Co-Founder of UniHomes, Phil Greaves, commented:

“It’s great to see that there has been an increase in those opting to pursue higher education despite government changes to the student loan structure.”

“The job market is a tough place to be searching at the moment and so many are seeing further education as a good investment of their time and money with a longer-term view of improving their employment prospects further down the line.”

“However, while the provision of student-specific accommodation has also increased, a reduction in PRS stock is a worrying trend that could cause issues for future students when it comes to putting a roof over their heads.”

“Rental affordability is already an issue for many at university and the cost of renting is the largest outgoing that many students struggle to cover.”

“Should stock levels continue to decline while demand increases, the cost of renting is likely to climb higher, causing rents to increase as well.”

“This increase in the cost of living could well deter many from opting to go to university, reversing the positive increase seen over the past five years.”

Year Total UK Students UK Population Students as a percentage of UK population
2015/16 2,332,825 65,110,000 3.6%
2016/17 2,376,975 65,648,100 3.6%
2017/18 2,415,660 66,040,200 3.7%
2018/19 2,457,150 66,435,550 3.7%
2019/20 2,532,385 66,796,807 3.8%
Total Change 9% 3% 0.20%
Source HESA Office for National Statistics
Year Total Student-specific Rentals Annual Change Average Annual Change
2015/16 539,000 N/A 5.2%
2016/17 568,000 5.4%
2017/18 602,000 6.0%
2018/19 627,509 4.2%
2019/20 660,000 5.2%
Source: Cushman & Wakefield
PRS Sector in England Total Student-specific Rentals Annual Change Average Annual Change
2015/16 4,773,000 N/A -0.2%
2016/17 4,832,000 1.2%
2017/18 4,798,000 -0.7%
2018/19 4,798,000 -0.5%
2019/20 4,773,000 -1.0%
Source Gov.uk – Live tables on dwellings
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