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Student Accommodation – Will an Avalanche Follow The Train Wreck?

Peter Hemple attempts to keep up with the twists and turns within the student sector

This article is the second part of an in-depth look at student accommodation. At the time of writing the first part, in early-June, I suggested waiting three months to do the follow-up as “the situation should be clearer by then”. Oh the irony. So much has happened within the higher education sector over the summer but even now, with the start of the first term just days away, the situation is not even as clear as mud. Also, at the time of writing, a second wave of infections has emerged across half of Europe, the list of countries that require a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in the UK is changing on a daily basis (Portugal was added to the list as I wrote this but only for Scotland and Wales, not England) and cases are rising in the UK again, with the seven-day average rising above 1,400 cases per day, from 500-600 per day in early July.

With the entire world in such a confused state at the moment it would be foolhardy to predict what the student market will look like by Christmas, let alone next summer. In this article then, I will attempt to summarise most of the twists and turns that have occurred within the student accommodation sector this summer. I guarantee there are some that you will have missed - there are simply not enough hours in the day to keep up.

So, do you want the good news or the bad news first…in fact, you don’t need to answer that as I already know the answer. Research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin found that more than 75% of you will want the bad news first.

A grade-A level disaster
When the pandemic led to a lockdown back in March, universities reacted impressively, switching classes online and maintaining the safety of both staff and students. Plans were then made during the summer to cope with the next academic year, including policies and guidance on social distancing, sanitising, and digital teaching alongside limited face-to-face tuition on campus, with a cap on the number of students…then came the A-level results.

Clearing day is the busiest day of the year for UK universities. Thousands of students receive their A-level grades and those who underperform academically call universities and start to negotiate where they can spend the next three years.

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