Latest from the Nottingham Owners' Briefing - 27th October 2020

28/10/2020

Summary from the Nottingham Owners’ Briefing held on 27th October 2020

This briefings concentrated primarily on student numbers nationally and recruitment, the 2020 - 2021 academic year and the upcoming letting season.  

National Student Numbers

  • Applications through UCAS were up 2% before A level results
  • Clearing up 5%
  • Grading fiasco led to government pushing universities to accept more students
  • Overall trend was up 2%, with UK +2%, International +10%, and additional 14,500 applicants
  • A 20% rise in direct to clearing applications, an additional 4% students in the UCAS system.
  • Higher tariff universities saw most of the growth
  • About 14,000 students who’s initial grades meant they did not get their first choice, once their grades were adjusted up then went on to either be admitted to their first choice or an equivalent
  • Non-EU acceptances up by 9% this year through UCAS (China up by 24%)
  • EU down by 10%

BUT

There is a Difference between acceptances and enrolments.  Many students are studying from their home country as courses online. A number of universities have flexible refund policies so may yet see late cancellations. Many universities offering Jan 2021 start dates for PGTs. 

Likely there has been a 50– 70% drop in international postgraduates, estimated at 50,000 - 80,000 fewer students this year.  India seem more resilient with the majority still planning to arrive.

Where are we now?

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 and there have been almost no students returning home (despite predictions that this would be the case). Household socialising has been good (perhaps fostered by self-isolation). Things have settled down.

What will happen at Christmas?

Students will probably return a bit earlier, but they often “drifted away” from early December.  We do know that 35% of undergraduate students are commuter students without a residential requirement so they are going back and forth regularly in any case. Most students will return home to visit (in some cases several times) whilst continuing to study up to the Christmas break. No matter what the deadline for a “return date” was set, many students will seek to leave immediately before that, so a fixed deadline would encourage clustered movement. Even if set, a date is unlikely to be complied with (many students moved back to the parental home in the first week of lockdown despite the stringent restrictions in place at this stage)

Observations?

There are many 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

Website Usage

The Unipol website was a main source of information for many working in the student accommodation sector and for students to access guidance around accommodation and the pandemic.

Looking at the period from 1st March 2020 through to 31st August 2020, when compared to the same period in 2019, significant rises were seen. 

  • 17% higher in sessions
  • 38% higher in users
  • 40% higher in new users

Viewings and the new Letting Season

Whole house viewings involving more than two people are not recommended.

Nottingham going in to Tier 3 restrictions for 28 days.

Unipol's approach will:

  • Strongly encourage students to view properties virtually in the first instance
  • Only offer a physical viewing of properties, where they have shown a strong interest in, to no more than 2 people
  • Do no viewing if there is a Covid+ tenant in the property or where a household is self-isolating.
  • Will be restrict areas to be viewed and tenants will be asked to ensure that all doors are left open and surfaces have been cleaned with household cleaning products in line with public health advice.

Landlords can now upload virtual tours of properties on to their adverts when advertising with Unipol.

Nottingham Update

Nottingham Trent University applications were on par with last year, even taking into account a 25% reduction in international students.  Up 500 on UGs mitigating some of the loss on internationals. A handful of voids in their own stock due to international deferrals and more choice available in private PBSA

University of Nottingham had steady intake at undergraduate level – accommodation pressures will have limited expansion. University of Nottingham likely to have been particularly affected by two issues:

  • Large proportion of accommodation is traditional, catere
  • Fall in international postgraduates

Supply is very tight in Nottingham so although international numbers down, accommodation demand still strong for PBSA.  Significant growth in PBSA continues. 1,500 new bed spaces in September 2020 with a further 3,300 in planning for September 2021.

Although it appears that there has been significant growth recently in PBSA  that growth has been fully absorbed. The numbers of cluster flats being constructed in the city over the next 2 years is significant, but about two thirds of this growth is predicted to be taken up by student number increases

The next significant increase in bed spaces will be next summer with an estimated 3,250 joining the supply. However supply will continue to be tight as 2021 is likely to be another bumper year for student demand.

Government keen to be seen to be ‘fair’ to this generation of young people, so participation may well be allowed to grow in future.

Unipol Code update in Nottingham

Total number of accredited bedspaces in Nottingham is 24,845 (3,884 from off-street properties and 20,961 from the PBSA).

A total of 19 visits and revisits have been undertaken to National Code sites in Nottingham so far in 2020. 2 new developments in Nottingham  were late in opening for the start of the 2020/21 academic year - CRM’s Medici and Mansion Student’s Mansion Place extension, and also one of the partially complete sites - Vita Student, Nottingham.

In total, improvement works have been completed at 389 properties as a result of Unipol’s verification inspections over the course of the 2017-2020 Code Cycle. 
 
41 complaints/enquiries were raised with Unipol in Nottingham between 1st August 2017-31st July 2020. 12 of these (29%) progressed to “formal complaints”. Enquiries are escalated to “formal complaints” where Unipol have contacted the landlords/agent formally, to help resolve issues. All of the complaints reported in the 2017-2020 Code cycle have since been resolved.