Despite Covid the UK remains one of the most popular destinations in the world for international students and is second only to the US as a preferred choice for those seeking top-notch universities.

These students, often arriving in an unfamiliar land and still relatively young, are keen to secure decent accommodation and often armed with generous budgets with half of them beginning their search up to a year in advance.

And apart from the right price, they also seek accommodation that’s close their campus and want, particularly in their first year, bills inclusive of rent.

The opportunity

There are almost 500,000 international students studying at UK universities, hailing from countries such as China, India, USA and Nigeria, as well as our close neighbours in Europe.

A recent study by the Higher Education Policy Institute estimated that these students were worth over £20 billion to the UK economy.

Halls v houses

Often overlooked by landlords who think international students only want to live in halls, our research shows that the majority would prefer to live in shared housing.

As the number of international students visiting (AFS) to find a term-time home has risen sharply, our team has been working with landlords to encourage them to target students from overseas. There are a couple of reasons for this.

Short term challenges and long term wins

There are some shorter-term challenges right now. Covid 19 has made it more difficult for international students to get into the UK, while remote learning has encourage some to stay in their home country.

As a result, the number of international students accepting a place to study in 2021 has fallen compared to the previous year. Early evidence is that despite this drop in numbers there would actually be more students traveling to live in the UK this year, with student visa applications up over 100% this year.

But the longer term aim of the UK is to increase the number of international students studying in the UK to 600,000 over the next decade. With many anticipating a relative return to stability by 2023, this is a growing market.

Adapting for the future

One key challenge for student landlords is that demand for their accommodation can be determined by the recruitment performance of the major universities in the towns and cities within which they operate.

Therefore, while 2021 has been a record year for AFS, the national picture does not account for significant regional variations.

In some cities with strong-performing universities there is not enough accommodation to meet demand while in others, where the institution is performing poorly, a decline in student intake can hit demand.

International solution

As a solution many universities struggling to meet their undergraduate recruitment targets will turn to the postgraduate market to address this shortfall.

While international students account for only 20% of undergraduates they represent 40% of all postgraduate students. Therefore, student cities with rising post-grad populations are likely to see an influx of international students.

Boosting online presence and reliable rental income

Given that the main selection criteria still apply, attracting these students is a matter of adapting marketing correctly.

In particular, the student house hunting process is almost all online now, so the latest video or virtual tour is essential to promote properties that can’t be viewed in person.

At the same time working with a reliable guarantor company like Housing Hand will take the risk out of accepting tenants from overseas.


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