PBSA: What’s going on in the sector

Nick King, Business Development Director at Amber, and panellist at the Student Accommodation conference, is passionate about all things PBSA and has built a detailed understanding of this amazing sector over the years. Here are three of his key observations from 2021.

1. PBSA still an exciting prospect for investors

Knight Frank recently published a report that suggested 41% of 18-year-olds in the UK applied to university for the 2020/21 academic year. With application levels for 21/22 applications expected to increase once again, the post-pandemic demand for PBSA product is looking healthier than ever.

There are key hotspots in the UK, traditionally concentrated around the core Russell Group universities, but we're now seeing new developments starting to take shape in more rural areas, including Cornwall.

Also quite excitingly, in more urban areas and cities, we’re seeing new, disruptive players positioning themselves in an already crowded market because they believe they can offer something different to more established operators.

2. Students are willing to pay premium cost for a premium product

A recent survey showed that the average room cost was £7,600 for the 2021/2022 academic year, up 6% from the previous year. This supports the argument that students want premium accommodation, and they are prepared to pay for it.

During COVID, students were spending more time in their rooms and therefore wanted unrivalled comfort, superfast broadband, and tech-integrated rooms and communal areas: high expectations which will no doubt outlast the pandemic and survive long into the future.

3. Time for operators to go green or go home

This year I have seen a surging interest in BREEAM, an excellent indicator that the sector is bracing itself for a collective push to Net Zero.

With students becoming increasingly aware of what their buildings are doing to become more sustainable, PBSA operators and developers alike need to step up.

Why? Because it will improve resident retention and boost asset value. We know that optimising a building’s ESG score gives it a higher market value, but not only does this need to be factored in at the construction and development phases, but also when looking at overall resident experience.

What we’re doing to support

When it comes to Net Zero, Amber spends a lot of time raising awareness, especially within the PBSA sector. This is so important as it ensures PBSAs can deliver the right offerings and, ultimately, remain competitive within this growing sector.

Click here to look at our latest guide, ‘Net Zero: What You Should Know’