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  • Marc Turner

Purpose Built Student Accommodation UK: Essential Guide

What are the advantages of purpose-built student accommodation in the UK?

Living in purpose-built student accommodation in the UK offers unique benefits that set it apart from traditional housing. These include proximity to universities, modern amenities, a sense of community, and enhanced security. Moreover, these accommodations are often fully furnished, relieving students of the hassle of setting up their living space.

The higher education landscape has significantly transformed, leading to a global surge in demand for purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). This innovative form of student housing, tailored to university students' needs, offers many advantages. In this blog, we will explore the rise of PBSA, its appeal to students, its role in the UK property market, its challenges, and its potential as a highly profitable investment option.

An apartment interior with a dining table and seating area

The Rise of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA)

In recent years, the student accommodation market has experienced a seismic shift with the rapid growth of purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). This term refers to student housing that is purposefully designed to meet the unique needs of university students. It's not hard to see why it's gaining popularity worldwide. Private investors and developers are flocking to this sector, recognising its immense potential. The growth of the PBSA sector is intricately linked to the evolving landscape of higher education and the escalating demand for quality student housing.

The Increasing Demand for PBSA

The demand for PBSA has skyrocketed in recent years, and the trend is set to continue. With a substantial increase in student numbers domestically and internationally, universities are pressured to provide sufficient accommodation. As higher education becomes more accessible and students worldwide seek quality education, the need for student housing has become a top priority. This trend is projected to continue in the coming years, with PBSA demand remaining robust in 2023 as the UK's student population expands. This is supported by broad demographic trends, with the population of 18-year-olds expected to continue rising and participation rates increasing. Historically, recessions have also led to additional demand for higher education, further reinforcing the need for PBSA.

International students have played a crucial role in driving the demand for PBSA. According to Knight Frank, international student numbers in the UK have increased by 80% since 2011, with students seeking accommodation that meets their needs. PBSA offers a convenient and attractive option for international students, providing them modern amenities, security, and a supportive community. With the spotlight on the growth in population and university applicants, the demand for PBSA is only expected to increase in the coming years.

Moreover, PBSA is increasingly preferred by students due to its superior facilities compared to traditional forms of student accommodation, such as university halls or private rentals. PBSA developments often include en-suite bathrooms, communal spaces, games rooms, and high-tech amenities, which enhance the overall student experience. These amenities create a conducive environment for students to thrive academically, socially, and emotionally.

The Impact of Rising International Student Numbers

The increasing number of international students has profoundly impacted the growth of the PBSA sector. As more students choose to study abroad, their accommodation needs differ from those of local students. PBSA has responded to this demand by providing housing options tailored to international students' preferences.

Knight Frank reports that major cities such as London, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Manchester, and Bristol have experienced an increased demand for student housing, primarily driven by international students. These cities, being popular education destinations, have witnessed a surge in international student numbers, resulting in a need for additional accommodation options.

PBSA developments in these cities have adapted to cater to the specific requirements of international students, such as language support services, on-site staff who can assist with cultural acclimatisation, and security measures to ensure a safe living environment. This targeted approach to accommodation has made PBSA an attractive choice for international students, contributing to the sector's growth.

The Appeal of PBSA to Students

One key reason for PBSA's increasing popularity among students is its appeal in terms of the student experience it offers. Compared to other forms of student accommodation, such as university halls or private rentals, PBSA provides a host of amenities and facilities that enhance students' overall living experience.

PBSA developments often feature en-suite bathrooms, communal spaces, games rooms, and high-tech amenities like cinemas and CCTV surveillance. These amenities foster a sense of community, encourage social interaction, and provide students with a vibrant and supportive environment conducive to academic and personal growth. The increasing stock of purpose-built student accommodation reflects the demand for these amenities and students' desire for an enjoyable and fulfilling university experience.

En-suite Bathrooms and Communal Spaces

En-suite bathrooms are a significant selling point of PBSA, providing students with privacy, convenience, and a higher standard of living. The availability of personal bathrooms within student rooms eliminates the need to share facilities, offering students comfort and a greater degree of independence. This feature has become increasingly essential, considering students' desire for privacy and the higher expectations of comfort in modern accommodation.

Communal spaces in PBSA developments are vital in creating a sense of community among students. These shared areas, such as common rooms, kitchens, and study spaces, allow students to connect, socialise, and collaborate with their peers. Furthermore, communal spaces often have various amenities, such as games rooms, cinemas, and gyms, enhancing the overall student experience and promoting a healthy work-life balance.

  • Communal spaces foster a sense of community and encourage student social interaction.

  • Shared areas allow students to collaborate and engage in extracurricular activities.

  • Games rooms, cinemas, and other amenities contribute to a vibrant and enjoyable student lifestyle.

  • PBSA developers prioritise providing attractive and well-equipped communal spaces to meet students' changing needs.

  • The availability of communal spaces sets PBSA apart from traditional housing options and enhances the overall student experience.

High-tech Amenities and On-site Facilities

Another significant appeal of PBSA for students is the presence of high-tech amenities and on-site facilities. PBSA developers understand the importance of integrating technology to meet the needs of modern students, who rely heavily on digital tools and services in their daily lives. These amenities enhance the convenience, comfort, and overall student experience.

High-tech amenities in PBSA include high-speed internet, intelligent energy management systems, and cutting-edge security measures, such as CCTV surveillance and secure access. These amenities cater to students' technology-driven lifestyles and ensure a seamless and safe living environment.

On-site facilities provided by private PBSA providers further contribute to students' satisfaction and well-being. These facilities may include gymnasiums, study areas, laundry rooms, and on-site support services. Private PBSA providers offer amenities to create a holistic living experience, supporting students' academic success, personal development, and overall well-being.

The Role of PBSA in the UK Property Market

PBSA has emerged as a significant player in the UK real estate market, particularly student accommodation. The development of purpose-built student accommodation has opened up new opportunities for investors, developers, and landlords in the residential property market, providing an alternative investment option with attractive rental yields.

This sector has witnessed record levels of investment in 2022, indicating strong market confidence and demand. The growth of PBSA development across the UK reflects the increasing recognition of student accommodation as a viable and high-yielding asset class, appealing to institutional investors and private developers.

Record Investment in PBSA in 2022

The year 2022 saw record levels of investment in the PBSA sector, with private-sector investors pouring significant capital into purpose-built student accommodation projects. Attractive rental growth prospects, increasing demand, and market stability contributed to this surge in investment.

Investors recognise PBSA as an asset class with strong rental growth potential, mainly due to the rising student numbers and the increasing demand for higher standards of student accommodation. The affordability and accessibility of student housing, combined with the stable rental income stream provided by PBSA, make it an attractive option for investors seeking long-term returns.

This record investment in PBSA demonstrates the confidence of private sector investors in the student accommodation market, indicating continued growth and opportunities in the sector. The sector's resilience, even in the face of economic uncertainty, has further strengthened investor trust, making PBSA an appealing option for those seeking to diversify their real estate portfolios in the PRS sector.

Predicted Growth and New Developments in PBSA

Forecasts suggest that the PBSA sector will continue to experience growth, with further development projects on the horizon. Private developers, recognising the demand for student housing, are actively pursuing new opportunities to meet the increasing student numbers.

Local authorities also support developers and create favourable planning policies to address the need for additional PBSA stock. This collaborative effort between private developers and local authorities paves the way for further PBSA development, ensuring that student accommodation needs are met adequately.

The growth of PBSA presents an attractive prospect for developers, investors, and landlords, as it aligns with the increasing demand for affordable, quality student housing. The predicted growth in student numbers, coupled with the ongoing demand for higher standards of accommodation, creates a substantial market for PBSA development.

Challenges for the PBSA Sector

Despite the opportunities and growth potential, the PBSA sector does face its share of challenges. One of the main challenges is ensuring affordability in student housing, particularly in areas where rental costs are high and affordable housing is scarce. Managing rental costs is crucial to providing students from diverse backgrounds with affordable accommodation, thereby addressing the affordability issue in higher education.

Rising Building Costs and Inflation

The rise in building costs and inflation presents a significant challenge for the PBSA sector. Construction costs, including materials, labour, and land, have increased, impacting the profitability of development projects. Inflation affects the initial development costs and ongoing operational expenses, such as maintenance and utilities.

These additional costs pressure developers and may impact rental prices, affecting students' affordability. Managing rising costs and inflation while delivering quality student accommodation within budgetary constraints requires strategic planning and efficient project management.

Labour Shortages and Planning Policy

Labour shortages in the construction industry pose another challenge for the PBSA sector. The demand for skilled workers, such as architects, engineers, and construction workers, often outpaces the supply, resulting in increased competition for talent and potential delays in project completion.

Moreover, planning policies and regulations can impact the development of student accommodation. Local authorities play a crucial role in granting planning permissions, and their policies can either support or hinder the construction of student accommodation. Navigating the planning system, adhering to regulations, and obtaining necessary approvals require expertise and proactive engagement with local authorities.

Balancing the challenges of labour shortages and planning policies is crucial to ensure smooth project execution and timely delivery of purpose-built student accommodation. Developers and investors must be prepared to strategise, collaborate, and adapt to overcome these hurdles in the ever-evolving student accommodation landscape.

The Supply and Demand Imbalance in PBSA

The increasing demand for purpose-built student accommodation has led to a supply and demand imbalance in this sector. As student numbers continue to rise, the current supply of PBSA stock may not meet the growing demand.

Student Numbers Outstripping Future PBSA Supply

Projected increases in higher education enrolment outpace available purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). The surge in student numbers emphasises the need for more PBSA options as demand escalates in university towns. Future student figures are set to exceed the planned capacity of PBSA units, necessitating additional developments. With an influx of students expected, the requirement for further PBSA constructions in university towns becomes evident. The growing student population surpasses the current provision of dedicated student housing, highlighting the urgency for expanded PBSA stock.

Potential for Rental Growth in PBSA

PBSA investments have substantial rental yield growth potential, attracting investors to this market. The sector offers opportunities for lucrative rental income streams that outperform traditional real estate assets, making it an enticing prospect for investors seeking promising rental growth trajectories in PBSA. This trend aligns with the rising demand for such accommodation options, indicating a positive outlook for rental expansion in the PBSA sector for the upcoming academic year.

The Importance of Expertise in PBSA Investment

Expertise is crucial in PBSA investment, ensuring informed decisions and successful outcomes. Collaborating with experienced lenders enhances project viability and mitigates risks. Clever Commercial will assist in finding the perfect lender using their expertise to navigate the complex PBSA sector.

Working with Experienced Lenders for PBSA Projects

Incorporating seasoned lenders enriches the financial environment for PBSA endeavours, fostering efficient funding pathways. Partnering with reputable financiers expedites the economic aspects of PBSA undertakings. Industry-experienced lenders offer invaluable insights crucial for successful PBSA investments. Securing funding from credible sources is paramount to the PBSA project's triumph. Well-established lender collaborations streamline capital allocations within PBSA initiatives.

The Future of PBSA Investment

Looking ahead, PBSA investments display resilience in fluctuating market climates. A key attribute is their sustainable nature, which attracts savvy investors. Evolving student housing requirements fuel the growth of PBSA investments, promising favourable returns. The outlook for PBSA remains optimistic, driven by long-term viability and adaptability to market dynamics.

Is PBSA a Worthwhile Investment for Landlords?

Are you considering diversification? PBSA investments offer stable income and exposure to the resilient student accommodation sector. Expand your portfolio with valuable PBSA properties, a compelling addition for landlords seeking long-term gains.


In conclusion, investing in Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA) presents a promising opportunity in the UK property market. With a surge in demand driven by international student numbers and modern amenities catering to student preferences, PBSA is poised for growth and development. However, challenges such as building costs and supply-demand imbalances must be navigated with expertise. Collaborating with experienced specialist brokerages such as Clever Commercial will enhance the prospects of PBSA investments. As the sector evolves, PBSA remains a compelling option for landlords looking for sustainable rental growth and long-term returns in the property market.


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