What Do Students Want From Purpose Built Student Accommodation?

Students were once content to live in outdated Halls of Residence and HMOs when studying at university. Generation Z has created a shift in expectations. The low living standards that students of yesteryear put up with, are swiftly being phased out, and the need for quality purpose built student accommodation is on the rise.

According to the Global Student Property Report from Knight Frank, there are over 1.9 million part and full-time students in the UK (pg 15). Of the students not living at home, 30% live in PBSA accommodation (pg 4), which is a rise of 22% from figures reported five years ago. This tells us more students are actively looking towards alternative accommodation options that better suit their needs.

PBSA has a lot to offer students in helping them with their studies and improving their life in general while at university. However, it’s important to understand what students really want from purpose built student accommodation before designing. This may be influenced in particular with new social distancing measures. By taking their needs into consideration, you create accommodation that will meet the students’ requirements, which in turn can improve the return on your investment.

In this article, we discuss what students are looking for and the importance of catering to their needs.

Student accommodation with colourful walls

A place for social interaction

For many students, educational institutions and housing operators, mental wellbeing is now a “high priority,” as it’s estimated that one-in-three students are experiencing depression or loneliness. To help combat the feeling of isolation, it’s integral purpose built student accommodation is designed to encourage social interaction.

The latest Student Accommodation Survey undertaken jointly by Knight Frank and UCAS highlighted the importance of student wellbeing, and how being sociable can help towards establishing a positive outlook. 81% of the students surveyed ranked “organised groups or clubs to reduce loneliness and isolation” as ‘important’ or ‘very important’ (pg 17). Furthermore, 86% of first-year students said being able to make friends was also important to them (pg 16).

Accommodation providers play a substantial role in helping students interact with one another. By forming groups and clubs for students to get involved with, it creates a bigger sense of community and builds loyalty to your accommodation service.

However, it’s important to note that PBSA providers may have to change their approach in boosting the sense of community with social distancing measures. Working out the best possible way to handle this issue will require design expertise and thorough knowledge on the demographic.

Opportunities to form a community need to coincide with the students’ want for well-designed spaces. LOFT has seen a growing demand for areas that can successfully incorporate the two niches. As such, study zones, game rooms, studios and large communal kitchens are becoming sought-after amenities for students in PBSAs.

Delivering on these needs is vital, as the mental health of students can be dramatically affected by their surroundings. Research from Unite Students shows us 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. 

Retaining residents in general can be difficult for some providers, as many students choose to move in their second and third years to live with friends they’ve made on their course. It’s important to give residents a reason to stay in your PBSA for the duration of their course to ensure a healthy ROI, and this is done through the support of onsite staff and providing a range of activities. If your purpose built student accommodation makes enough of an impact on its residents, students may even be inclined to recommend it to others.

Affordability combined with luxury

There’s no denying the impact of rising student fees has caused those studying at university to seek cheaper alternative accommodation. Research conducted by Save the Student revealed the cost of finding somewhere to live was a huge influencing factor.

One student explained, “Student accommodation is getting more and more expensive and also more luxurious — I would much rather have basic but functional, healthy and cheap accommodation.”

Interestingly, 97% students who took part in the Knight Frank and UCAS survey ranked ‘value for money’ as a significant factor (pg 13). The survey

from 2019 also marked this a key point, as again, 97% were in agreement. However, respondents said they would pay a premium for certain amenities such as super-fast wifi, an onsite gym and 24-hour security (pg 8).

Overall, this shows us that a mixture of high end and low end purpose built student accommodation is needed to cater to students who choose affordability over luxury and vice versa. Of course, finding a middle ground between the two options opens up even more possibilities.

Many of the purpose built student accommodation schemes currently being constructed are en suite and cluster-led schemes that demand lower rent prices and bring more flexibility to the market. In saying that, all types of PBSA need to support healthy community-based living and may need to be adapted to accommodate social distancing. Finding the right Interior Design team is the key to achieving this.

The quality of furnishings and overall quality of the accommodation ranked highly as other important aspects for students looking at accommodation options (at 89% and 95% respectively). This means PBSA providers should think carefully about who they source furniture from. Proving luxury can be affordable has been LOFT’s mission for many years, which helps PBSA owners and students alike strike a balance between price, comfort and style. Our aim is to ensure resident students are happy in their accommodation without you having to pay premium costs. Take a look at our case studies to see more of our expert work.

A fun student communal space

Delivering on what students want from purpose built student accommodation

Ultimately, students expect two things from their accommodation: opportunities to socialise and value for money. It’s through delivering on these expectations that aids students in enjoying their time living away from home while at university, even when facing challenges such as social distancing. In turn, this encourages them to stay in your PBSA for the duration of their course.

LOFT specialises in creating communal spaces that bring students together. Our bespoke furniture solutions provide you with the right resources to improve student wellbeing affordably. 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.

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