Gaming pods and private cinema rooms - the demand for student luxury is rising

Many people will remember opening the door of their student halls bedroom for the first time to be greeted with a narrow single bed, an MDF desk and a durable carpet.

YPP marketing manager Jennifer Pierce, pictured in one of the new student flats, as part of the Oasis Residence, Cookridge Street, Leeds. Picture by Simon Hulme

There was nothing luxurious about student accommodation but over the last decade the scene has shifted and for many students, the days of sharing a bathroom with four others are long gone.

With fees over a three-year degree course approaching £30,000, it appears that students are no longer prepared to accept poor quality accommodation.

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According to property agent GVA, the latest generation of student accommodation typically includes fast broadband and wi-fi, shared study areas, plus flexible communal facilities in a secure environment.

However, there is also a growing appetite for the top of the market with buildings featuring fitness suites, gaming pods and even private cinema rooms.

Deluxe student accommodation is increasing in cities like Leeds, Sheffield and York, which attract thousands of international students to study there every year.

However, a quick search throws up some eye-watering options for 18-year-olds today. One of the most expensive in Leeds is a studio apartment at YPP’s new Oasis Residence on Cookridge Street, which will set you back nearly £300 per week – more than double the average student rent in Leeds of £141.

According to the 2018 Leeds Crane Survey, the introduction of luxury student accommodation “recognises the need to provide high quality accommodation with additional amenity space and services beyond the traditional private bed student accommodation cluster flats”.

It added: “The provision of this type of accommodation...will enable the city’s universities to be able to attract additional students, including a higher proportion of foreign students.”

Oasis Residence, YPP’s seventh building in Leeds, will be its flagship student scheme. Marketing manager Jennifer Pierce said: “Leeds University is getting bigger every year. We are 100 per cent let in Leeds and there are waiting lists.”

Most new student accommodation is now provided by the private sector as universities focus on funding the core areas of educating and research.

Figures by JLL show that the number of student beds in Yorkshire has risen by 48 per cent, from 45,000 to almost 67,000 in the last five years, despite the number of full-time students only rising by one per cent during the same period.

Leeds saw the largest increase, with 9,272 student beds built during this period, a rise of 79 per cent.

YPP believes there is enough demand to meet supply even though acceptances for places at UK universities were down by 1.1 per cent for 2018/19. “Students today have much higher standards and expect a lot more from their accommodation,” Ms Pierce said. “We are providing what they want and expect.”

However, GVA believes there may be a risk of oversupply in some areas soon.

York University, which has approximately 6,000 beds of its own, has seen a number of private sector schemes being built in recent years.

The city has the highest average weekly rent in the region at £145. “We consider the market to be balanced with little scope for further new schemes unless exceptionally well located,” said GVA directors Roger Lown and Dai Powell.

Meanwhile, in Sheffield, which is home to two universities, there is a significant pipeline of accommodation in the city.

There are approximately 21,000 existing student beds with a pipeline of a further 9,000 beds, according to GVA.

Mr Lown and Mr Powell added: “If all of these are built there is a significant risk of an oversupply. However it is by no means certain that all of the schemes with planning permission will be built.”

So is the student housing bubble about to burst?

A recent GVA report said the private sector was delivering a disproportionately high number of studios flats. “We believe this is an over-supply risk in some locations and something that needs to be closely monitored when assessing locations,” it said.

However, YPP believes that as long as developers keep delivering what students want in the right locations they will keep coming. And presumably, as long as they do, investors and developers will too.