By the 2012-2013 academic year, the Government granted universities the right to charge a maximum of £9,250 per year to an individual on an undergraduate course. The rise of home student tuition fees has since had a huge impact on every aspect of a UK resident’s university course, including their choice of accommodation.
In turn, the cost of accommodation has had a further negative effect on the mental health and wellbeing of students, as many are thinking about how much debt they will have over the course of their time at university. Several students have had to find somewhere to stay without being in University Halls or HMOs, separating them from their friends.
With this in mind, we want to take a look at how the increased student fees have historically impacted accommodation.
How a Lack of Suitable Accommodation Affect Students
According to The University of Manchester, the average cost of student accommodation for an undergraduate on one of their 2019/20 courses is £5,195, but can reach £6,099. On top of other key costs such as meals, clothes, transport and course books, the true cost of being a student equals £9,580 per year, before adding course fees. Over a three year course and including the home student tuition fees, the total cost comes to £56,490.
With the amount that totalling so high, many students are looking at more viable and cheaper options. Usually, that means staying at home with their parents, but in doing this, a significant proportion miss out on the full university experience.
The Social Implications
Aside from the educational benefits, one of the main reasons to support going to university is the opportunity to develop social skills in a new environment. However, a student from the University of Salford best explained how being a commuter student makes it hard to enjoy the whole experience.
As part of a study on commuter students conducted by Liz Thomas, Zamzam Ibrahim said, “I didn’t get the opportunity to attend all the fun stuff because travel is so difficult at night and expensive. Students who don’t move out tend to stay involved in their lives back home rather than make new friends and I think we miss out on a massive experience… I didn’t take advantage of freshers’ week because…it was not worth paying the fares. Now I know that week is crucial for all students.”
While we can only speculate as to what the new academic year may bring thanks to newly established social distancing measures, we may find more commuter students feel further isolated from their peers if student accommodation protocols become more stringent.
The Academic Implications
Without affordable living accommodation on or nearby campus, commuter students not only suffer socially, but academically.
Several students who participated in Thomas’s report admitted the amount of effort that went into commuting wasn’t worth the amount they were going to learn by attending. On days where students only had to be in for one hour, some said they wouldn’t bother coming in (pg 34).
As such, this affects the class of their degree. Thomas found that students who live at home are less likely to achieve a first or upper-second class degree, and they are more likely to fail academically (pg 10).
How Has Home Student Tuition Fees Affected Accommodation as a Whole?
While there are a significant portion of students choosing to commute to university, a survey conducted by Save the Student revealed 54% rent from private landlords close to campus, as there isn’t enough room for everyone to live in university-owned accommodation.
This is good news for private landlords who own property near universities, as they’re always going to attract interest. On average, students will save £11 a week renting as opposed to living on campus, which often makes it a preference, but there isn’t enough suitable accommodation to meet the demands of students.
The Save the Student survey found competition was fierce for decent housing resulting in 1 in 5 students looking for next year’s accommodation 10 months in advance. Comments on their current living situations were also fairly negative, but one anonymous student revealed exactly what they wanted.
This person said, “Student accommodation is getting more and more expensive and also more luxurious — I would much rather have basic but functional, healthy and cheap accommodation.”
Why PBSA is an Effective Solution
Those in higher education are no longer content spending their time at university in outdated halls. They have different needs and expectations than students from yesteryear. Purpose built student accommodation creates many opportunities to meet these requirements without causing students to accrue huge amounts of debt from accommodation.
As the need for suitable accommodation grows, universities have to provide a range of PBSAs from high to low end in order to support the differing backgrounds of students that UK universities attract. Factoring in home student tuition fees, it’s important to remember that not everyone will be able to afford the most luxurious living spaces.
61% of PBSA schemes currently being built are en suite and cluster-led schemes that demand lower rent prices and bring more flexibility to the market, according to the Student Property Report from Knight Frank. However, all types of PBSA will still need to support healthy community-based living, and finding the right Interior Design team is the key to achieving this, especially if social distancing remains a common occurrence.
Delivering on these needs is vital, as the mental health of students can be dramatically affected by their surroundings. Research shows that 43% of students who describe themselves as ‘isolated or lonely’ strongly consider dropping out (pg 12). Improving retention rates can only be done by giving students ways to integrate and for site staff to provide support.
Looking at PBSA in its entirety, it provides students with affordable accommodation near universities and allows for more social interaction to promote wellbeing. In times where mental health and the cost of living are two of our nation’s biggest concerns, PBSA actively works towards resolving these issues for students. It will be interesting to see what new measures will have to be taken to tend to these needs post-lockdown.
What Does This Mean Going Forward?
The PBSA market had been on the rise, as the need to reduce the cost of going to university is such a hot topic amongst those in higher education and those looking towards it.
Home student tuition fees are at their peak, and it’s unlikely they are going to be reduced anytime soon. The Augar review stated fees should come down to £7,500, but the House of Lords believe this will have a detrimental effect on universities.
With so much ambiguity, the focus should be on creating suitable living conditions for students, as there will always be a need for quality student accommodation, regardless of fees. By listening to what students want and providing them with the right Interior Design solutions, you will ensure your PBSA will be at capacity for years to come. If you need help with designing and furnishing purpose built student accommodation — particularly with social distancing in mind — get in contact with the LOFT team. With our years of experience and in-depth knowledge of the student accommodation sector, we’re best placed to make your development a success.