It’s hard to imagine in business terms an industry or sector that’s been disrupted quite as abruptly and totally as the higher education industry, given that thousands of students across Europe and the world almost instantly had their studies paused with no concrete idea of how they’d be completed.
Across the world, entire industries and businesses have had to adapt themselves and find new ways of working almost overnight. If anything, it’s been quite a good and interesting litmus test of which have the greatest dexterity in times of adversity.
It has cast doubt, however, over how this academic year will be completed. Many universities, like those in the UK and Portugal, are attempting wherever possible to complete seminars and lectures online, as well as one-on-one tutoring, exams, essays and dissertations.
It’s not always possible though and so there are many that may have to use predictive grades and averages to hand out final marks.
The more pressing issue, however, is that currently A-Level students are about to go through an agonising system of grading whereby teachers and tutors provide them with their grades through predictive marking, but this is set to cause some level of chaos across the university sector as they have to re-evaluate unconditional and conditional offer systems.
The thought process is that the top universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Durham, etc, will already have the best students on their radar anyway and the chances are that those students were likely to be accepted unless some kind of last-minute disaster occurred.
Unconditional offers are similarly straight forward as these students were bullet-proof anyway. There has, however, been quite a bit of pressure raised from many in higher education against this practice as it is in effect, they say, pretty much the same thing as getting a place through predictive grades.
The problem arises in the much larger grey area where students have had conditional offers, or may even shock and surprise teachers and tutors with impressive results when predicted poor results.
Universities, in these instances, need to figure out a way to fairly distribute their limited places based on a system that currently doesn’t exist, but that isn’t the only challenge.
Given the collective frustration and psychological trauma of being locked down for months on end, there’s more than a few that believe that once the restrictions are lifted that people are going to go somewhat crazy with their new found freedom.
This could quite easily feed into an enormous surge in university applications through the summer as students decide they want to go to university rather than defer or wait, and given that student applications have been steadily increasing year-on-year without any other sort of incentive, it doesn’t seem ridiculous to suggest that it could happen en-mass in this context.
With regards to what this is likely to do to student accommodation, and Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) in particular, there are already limited numbers of beds every year for a high number of students. As summer now approaches, this increase in applications will soon become apparent, and it looks like demand for PBSA will once again continue to rise.
As with any economic equation, bring it back to its simplest form and we can assume that lack of supply, coupled with increased demand, will result in an increase in prices. Yields, rents, etc would all increase in this instance as more and more young people look to make the most of the student lifestyle.
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