Property has become a
service. In purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA), students don’t pay rent
to live in a room – they get a service, which happens to come with a clean and
modern fitted bedroom, bathroom and kitchen.
Students, welfare support and round-the-clock security and safety measures are
not optional extras, but part of the all-inclusive service package to make sure
students are safe and secure while living with us.
package connects them to a friendship group using our app, by creating virtual
households long before students move in, helping to reduce anxiety about living
with strangers when they leave home. Our students can also connect to experts
who can help with mental health and wellbeing issues 24 hours a day, 365 days a
onset of Covid-19, our service has been enhanced with additional cleaning,
staff wearing Public Health England-approved PPE and hand sanitiser available
at all of our properties.
at the forefront of a move to focus on service – a journey that property
investors and managers needed to go on before the pandemic and one that is now
essential. Putting customers at the heart of our business and serving their
needs is something Unite Students has always done and is partly why I recently
left a role in retail and leisure.
long way from the world of long leases to unknown tenants with cashflows
supported by upward-only rent reviews – a model property investment has been
likely that every property sector will have to move to a business model where
landlords closely understand customers, not tenants, and provide far more than
just a building governed by a long-term contractual lease.
reward will be customer loyalty (read, ‘reoccurring sustainable cash flow’). In
turn, they will become preferred space providers (read ‘rental growth’).
to be customer-centric is why Unite Students invested £100m in students as the
first UK PBSA provider to forgo rent following the Covid-19 outbreak in March.
It was the right thing to do for our customers.
has clearly had an impact on the sector’s short-term performance, but the
medium- and long-term outlooks remain robust, with 2020/21 UCAS figures showing
a promising increase in overall applicants and a drop in the deferral rate.
the market is under-supplied and demand is set to rise. Research by the Higher
Education Policy Institute (HEPI) suggests demand for university places will
surge by 50,000 domestic students by 2030 as the number of 18-year-old UK
school leavers rises.
300,000 places will be needed to keep pace with the growing participation rate,
HEPI estimates. History also shows that demand for education always increases
in times of economic distress.
most recent survey, 89% of students said they wanted to return to campuses as
soon as it was safe to do so and stressed the importance of having a social
life, while 79% said living away from home on campus was as important a part of
their university experience as lectures and tutorials.
top 10 safety measures students wanted were robust cleaning regimes and
increased hand sanitiser provision. These and much more are integral to our
offer. That’s property as a service, or what we like to call our home for
Troughton is group investment director at Unite Students