Latest from the Leeds Owners' Briefing - 16th December 2020


Summary from the Leeds Owners' Briefing held on 16th December 2020

This briefing looked at student numbers, universities responses to changing tier systems, advice for the return of students in January 2021 and issues of the moment.

National Student Demand

  • The demographic dip goes into reverse as the number of English students increases for first time since 2015 – this decline has been masked to some extent by increasing non-EU applicants.
  • 570,475 students accepted through UCAS, up 5.4% on last year (+29,235). Push by government and HE to grow capacity after A’level marking fiasco. 
  • The number of applicants accepted from outside the EU has reached a new peak of 52,755, a 16.9% year-on-year increase (+7,615). Although acceptance does not necessarily mean a student attended. 
  • EU acceptances are stable at plus 555 (+0.17%) to 32,320.
  • The UK 18 year old population is expected to fall to its lowest point in recent years in 2020.
  • 81,660 applicants used Clearing in the 2020 cycle. A new record, and an increase of 10% on last year. However many of the applicants who had their grades adjusted did not use clearing and went back through the main route. 
  • Clearing accounted for 14.3% of all students accepted – also a new high.
  • Non-EU acceptances up by 9% this year through UCAS (China up by 24%)


  • Difference between acceptances and enrolments 
  • Many students studying from home country as courses online
  • Number of universities had flexible refund policies so may see late cancellations
  • Many universities offering Jan 2021 start dates for PG

Likely there has been a 50– 70% drop in international postgraduates, estimated at 50,000 - 80,000 fewer students this year.

Local Student Demand

  • University of Leeds down approximately 4,000 international PG, but partly offset but UK undergraduate growth
  • Leeds Beckett University intake not significantly affected by drop in PG internationals

How did term 1 go?

  • around 25%-30% of halls have been in self-isolation (most now have falling cases and self-isolation is also reducing) - in contrast to PHE’s data on non-student 18-25 year olds
  • compliance with social distancing has improved
  • there have been almost no students returning home early (despite predictions that this would be the case)
  • household socialising has been good (perhaps fostered by self-isolation)
  • things have settled down

Issues of the moment

There was much comment about when students should return home at Christmas. A few points:

  • 35% of undergraduate students are commuter students without a residential requirement so they are going back and forth regularly in any case.
  • Most students returned home at points during term one anyway
  • Take up of testing has been low and mainly focussed on first years. Positive results incredibly low.
  • 30% of first years left during the travel window but many returning students still in Leeds.

In conclusion, some first years went home a bit earlier than they would have done.

Student Return in January 2021

Leeds Beckett University and Leeds Conservatoire to return as normal

Aside from first semester examinations Leeds Beckett University will start their second semester, as originally planned, on 1st February 2020. Leeds Conservatoire also have examinations from 4th January and term is likely to start, as previously planned on 18th January 2021.

The University of Leeds is still considering its options and their teaching, which was scheduled to begin on 25th January, will probably be moved back by a few days.

Overall, however, it is Unipol’s view that student may return a few days later than normal


  • there are risks still inherent in providing student accommodation this year relating to universities closing or moving entirely on-line in 2021
  • there is no evidence that students who have moved away from home want to return and study from home - attrition rates are lower than last year
  • good Wi-Fi is vital and shared space within flats important

Future Applications

  • 2021 will bring the first increase in the 18 year old population since 2015 – a trend that is set to endure for the next six years.
  • By 2025, Office for National Statistics (ONS) data projects a net increase of 114,060 18 year olds across the UK, bringing the total to 811,130.
  • By 2025, UCAS forecasts there will around an additional 90,000 UK 18 year old applicants based on a projected application rate of 47.5%.

Website Usage

The opening weekend saw similar levels of activity to 2019:

  • 6,605 sessions compared to 6,392 in 2019.
  • 3,011 new users compared to 2,891 in 2019
  • 15% increase in the average session duration.

The opening non-inclusive average rent in November 2020 was £92.51 for a Code property compared to £88.14 in November 2019.

Saturday 21st and Sunday 22th November 2020 saw 10,814 property searches (2019 - 12,789) and 72,777 advert views (January 2019 – 63,248).

Over 2,700 book a viewing requests through the website

First 11 days has seen around 15% less activity than last year. 

With limited opportunities for physical viewings, students who were ready to look are likely to have made quicker decisions.