The international student population is a potentially huge source of revenue for investors in British property, but it’s not a case of ‘if you build it, they will come’. Developing a strategy that will attract and retain residents is vital for establishing a long-term return on your investment.
Between 2003 and 2013, the number of international students studying in the UK rose by 63 per cent to 436,585 – in 2016 they make up over 20 per cent of the British student population and underline the British higher education system’s flourishing global reputation.
There’s more good news: estimates suggest that the growth in incoming students moving to continental Europe will rise from 1.8 million in 2014 to 2.5 million in 2020. Foreign students are a goldmine for shrewd investors – incredibly, they bring in twice as much money to the UK economy in a single academic year, than the latest £5.6 billion Premier League TV deal does in three seasons.
How does this affect investors or developers like you?
The knock-on effects of these figures are that forward-thinking and quick-to-act investors should, to maximise their investments, build residencies that cater – almost solely – for this new breed of wealthy, globetrotting student. There are lots of things to consider:
Going digital to attract a savvy global market
The current top-sending non-EU countries are China, India and Nigeria, while the top-sending EU countries are Germany, France and the Republic of Ireland. For the former – those situated a long-haul flight away – digital content is the only plausible way to show off how great your accommodation is and to generate interest.
Remember that the modern student is savvy; their reliance on digital means that in 2016 your shop window is your website. Don’t forget social media channels such as Instagram and Twitter, and other types of content, well-produced video content for instance.
Your accommodation will be designed to look after students’ needs, we know that. But do they? This is your first time to communicate this clearly, and your opportunity to provide them with as much information and reassurance as you possibly can.
Think about your property and how it differs to your competitors – then, decide on how through striking visual content, you can make your development appeal to students who will be as interested in furniture and colour schemes, as they are about the strength of WIFI and how bill payments are arranged.
Appeal to the student lifestyle
UKCISA revealed international student’s preferred destinations are universities in global cities, such as University College London, The University of Manchester The University of Edinburgh.
There’s good reason: British culture. The savviest students will conduct detailed research into specific locations, whether it’s things to do Edinburgh, coffee shops in Manchester or shopping in Edinburgh. They’ll choose the course that suits them in a city that offers everything they want culturally.
It’s clear that value and convenience are the most sought-after things students look for, but there are other no-less-important aspects such as proximity to transport, shops and their university campus.
Remember: you’re not just selling a room to sleep in, you’re marketing a way of life. The decision to move to the other side of the world is not one taken lightly, so provide reassurance that it’s the right decision, your property is the ideal home for them and that they’ll flourish in once they arrive.
Strategic and modern thinking
Academia and design have always been intertwined, mid-twentieth century modernism for instance.
Now, in the 21st Century, big thinking has belatedly fused with student property design. The shabby digs of the 1970s are long gone (thankfully!). Nowadays, the most successful developers are thinking strategically about their offerings. They are using modern digital techniques to attract foreign residents and are bringing a designers’ intellect to the table to consider how the psychology of design can help create strong communities that learn and thrive together.
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