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“And the other student said roll over”

Each year, the number of students heading off to university increases, and as a result, the demand for student accommodation does too. According to the University and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS), the number of undergraduate students placed into higher education via their application process has continued to rise annually. Due to this, universities in Great Britain are being put under strain as the number of students registered to higher education establishments are considerably higher than the number of university owned student rooms available, according to research by As a result, students are often having to turn to privately owned accommodation, which is significantly more expensive.

Universities in Great Britain are under pressure to provide enough rooms to accommodate the growing influx of students they will inevitably greet each year. According to data provided by UCAS, the number of sixth form and college students applying to higher education has been on the rise year on year. Back in 2014, the number of students applying to university rose above half a million for the first year, reaching 512,370 – an increase of 3.4% from the year before. In 2015, the figure increased by 3.9% from 2014, with universities accepting 532,265 students. Figures released from 2016 show that 535,175 students were accepted into a university course in the UK, an increase of 2,910 students.


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Statistics show that there is a lack of university owned accommodation (e.g. halls) among a large number of large and established Great British universities. As a result of this, there has been a marked rise in privately owned accommodation being built. 2015 was a record year for investment in the student housing sector, with all transactions reaching an estimated £5.1 billion. This year, it is estimated that around £3.1 billion of stock has been traded, just over 60% of the 2015 total, which is set to carry on soaring.

According to research by Cushman and Wakefield, a property advisory firm, the growing competition within the university sector has indicated that higher education institutions are choosing to prioritise funding of resources, the improvement of teaching and campus infrastructure over student accommodation. Therefore, due to the stark increase in students over the years and only a small number of university owned accommodation available, private student housing companies are cashing in. Many companies are earning a substantial financial profit and creating high yields in rental income from undergraduate students.

Companies, such as UNITE, lead the way with around 50,000 student bed spaces under management in over 24 university towns and cities. In addition, in many major cities, such as Newcastle and Glasgow, strong development plans are in place to create more than 6,000 private university accommodation per city. The number of purpose-built beds (self-contained flats clustered into units with 4 to 6 bedrooms for students) available in the 2016-17 academic year reached over half a million, at 568,000 – an increase of 5.4% from the previous year. Growth has predominantly come from the private sector, with 21,400 new beds being built during the year. But despite the recent surge in development, long term demand is still rising faster than the supply of student accommodation.

Robby Du Toit, Managing Director of Sell House Fast, commented on the problems of university accommodation:

“With a growing number of students entering university education each year, it is a worry that there is such little university owned accommodation on the market for undergraduates. The average weekly rent in the UK for university owned halls of residence costs around £120, whereas accommodation provided by private companies costs around £165 – an extortionate amount of money which is completely unfeasible for students who are already tight for cash. Students shouldn’t have to pay the latter because there isn’t enough ‘low-priced’ university owned student hall rooms available. It’s no wonder the student to bed ratio is at such a high rate across a number of universities around the United Kingdom.”


Photo credit: C. J. Williamson / Shutterstock

Sell house fast looked at a sample of universities around Great Britain (excluding London) and found twenty of the worst culprits for higher education institutions with a higher student to bed ratio. New research conducted by Sell house fast has revealed the ratio of students to university beds from 20 large city universities in England, Scotland and Wales (excluding London), by compiling data from HESA and Unistats, using figures from the 2016-17 academic year. Sell house fast looked at the number of beds available in university halls, versus the number of students accepted into each university, and worked out how many students would have to live in a one bedroom property – disregarding privately owned accommodation. In a large quantity of universities, the number of undergraduate students registered to a higher education establishment are considerably greater than the number of student rooms available. Consequently, this results in the student to bed ratio to become substantially higher.

Research by Sell house fast has discovered that the University of Southampton has the highest student to bed ratio, with a staggering 41.70 students per bed. Southampton University is followed by the University of Exeter with 22.61 students per bed, and the University of Durham with 13.30 per bed. On the other end of the scale was the University of Bristol with 1.93 students to the number of beds available. The University of Sussex and the University of Leicester were in 18th and 19th place, with 2.31 and 2.14 students per bed respectively. The University of Cambridge had the best student to bed ratio, with more student accommodation available than students, meaning that there were 0.99 students to one student bed available.  

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