Outlook for student housing in the UK is positive despite Brexit uncerainty

Demand for student housing in the UK is set to remain high from overseas undergraduates despite fears that Brexit would result in a downturn, according to a new report.

Overall demand from international students remains strong despite the uncertainty, while changing demographic trends should strengthen domestic demand, says the Student Housing Update from real estate firm Knight Frank looking to the second quarter of 2019.

It points out that more than 560,000 students applied to start a full-time undergraduate course at UK universities for the 2019/2020 academic year, according to the latest applications data from UCAS.

This was nearly 2,500 more applications than at the same point last year and the first year on year increase in applications in three years.

It also points out that the rise in applications for the 2019/2020 academic year was driven by a record number of applicants from outside of the UK, which climbed 5.7% on 2018 levels.

International student numbers increased in spite of the heightened level of political uncertainty surrounding Brexit, highlighting the ongoing global appeal of UK higher education. Overall, nearly a fifth, some 19.2%, of all applicants were from outside the UK.

Of particular note was a 33.3% year on year rise in prospective Chinese students, up from 11,915 to 15,880. This follows an increase of 20.6% last year, and brings Chinese applicant numbers to nearly the same level as those from Wales and Northern Ireland at 18,855 and 17,910 respectively.

‘While the latest figures suggest that Brexit has not deterred overseas applicants, future demand is contingent on decisions surrounding the UK’s relationship with the European Union,’ said James Pullan, global head of Student Property at Knight Frank.

‘The medium and long term picture however, remains bright, underpinned by positive demographics and the recently announced International Education Strategy,’ he added.