Universities are often the beating heart of a city and the highly skilled graduate workers which they produce allow the country to function. Doctors, engineers, teachers, dentists, and many more – all are trained in our universities and all contribute to the modern society which we so enjoy.
However, when all these professionals are students they tend to get a bad rap. The stereotype of students as a destructive force in the local community, interested in nothing more than drinking and making noise, is tragically outdated but that does not stop it being propagated by people who should know better. With the rise of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) in city centres, these same old complaints are beginning to surface again from local residents concerned that young people are a threat to the fabric of their society.
The truth is that universities are vitally important to cities and are often the reason why a place feels alive in the first place.
The wider benefits of having a university in a city are already well known. The research done in these institutions attracts a significant amount of investment to the UK. Investment boosts local economies and creates jobs in areas where there may have been a shortfall before. A quick look at Jaguar’s £500m car factory, testing site and engineering centre to be built in Coventry illustrates the point. The region has a surplus of high quality engineering graduates thanks to the local universities which have proven very appealing to Jaguar. The thousands of jobs created in the city’s car industry will directly replace those which have been lost in recent decades. Another fantastic example is the creation of a worldwide graphene industry which is centred on the University of Manchester thanks to the Nobel Prize winning research carried out there.
In addition, students spend a lot of money in the local economies. Millions of pounds are poured into the shops, bars, pubs and clubs in university cities every year, and the local cafes, supermarkets and high street shops are able to survive thanks to student workers. Local councils benefit from the propensity of students to use public transport at much higher rates than the general population. The cities themselves also benefit socially from having a large student population. The intelligent and motivated students who populate our universities are much more likely than most to volunteer at local charities, help out in schools and take part in the sort of local events which give a place life.
That is all without mentioning the billions of pounds brought to the UK by overseas students every year.
Much like the students themselves, student accommodation has an unfortunate reputation. Seemingly everyone who has attended university has some sort of horror story about their university halls which gets passed down to their children and lowers the expectations of the next generation. However, this impression is changing.
University fees have risen dramatically under the Conservative government and left students with less money than ever before. In such times it is not a surprise to see students looking for the best possible value for money in everything, including their accommodation. It is no surprise to see students protesting overpriced, low quality student accommodation like we can see at University College London. Into this gap, PBSA has emerged as the best option for students.
These developments are generally located in city centre locations with good access to public transport and local shops, bars and restaurants. In addition to the great location, the leading PBSA apartments often provide amenities such as an on-site gymnasium or a games room for residents to go with their luxury apartments. There really is no comparison between the older style of university halls and the modern equivalents which are appearing today. Developments such as St. Andrew’s Court and X1 Chapel Street are redefining the market and proving irresistible to both student tenants and buy-to-let investors.