Back to School

Will the drop in university applications affect the student rental market?

It's one of the most frequently debated issues in higher education, but the conversation around fluctuating student application numbers is unlikely to go away any time soon.

The number of people applying for UK higher education courses in 2017 has fallen by more than 25,000 (4%) compared to last year. This is the first decline since 2012, when fees were last increased in the UK. The decline in university applications follows the announcement that university fees will increase from £9,000 to £9,250 this year, and student loan interest rates will be increasing by 1.5% (from 4.6% to 6.1%) this Autumn.

It's never been a more expensive time to be a student.

And it's not just university fees would-be students have to consider, it's also the cost of materials, transport and perhaps most importantly; accommodation is key to keeping students happy.

This raises the question of whether the decline in university applications will affect the student rental market and student landlords, with new research suggesting that this is very much already the case.

Student property letting specialists,, reported a growing worry among student landlords struggling to secure tenants for the next academic year. This highlights a dramatic shift from previous months in which there have been not enough student properties to fulfil demand.

August once represented an opportunity both for students and for universities, but this year landlords were still trying to secure student tenants in several key university areas. In Exeter, demand for student properties is just 62%, followed by a two-way tie between Reading and Bath with a demand of 52%.

Danielle Cullen, Managing Director at comments: "Student landlords are starting to feel the strain of finding tenants for the next academic year, as many still have rooms left to let. We're now seeing supply for student properties outgrowing demand in some areas, which could spell a huge problem for the student lettings market and the future of private student landlords."

The report clearly demonstrates that tuition fees are one major factor responsible for negatively influencing how students view higher education. But it goes beyond that. The world is changing very rapidly, and universities are being further hindered by our Government's decisions and slow response.

Once, young people might not have wanted the higher fees but would have gritted their teeth and taken on the debt, making the calculation that it was still better value than not having a degree. Today, steeper tuition fees, unsupported social mobility and fears over Brexit conspire together to create an uncertainty for students who once would have gone into higher education without a second thought.

In previous years applications from EU and non-EU students have been an area of growth. But since Brexit, European students are hesitant to choose Britain, with the number of EU students planning to study in the UK falling by 5% from 51,850 to 49,250. This highlights fears that higher education will be one of the biggest losers of Brexit, with falling applications combining with reduced access to European research funds and intra-EU collaborations.

Meanwhile, this too can affect student application numbers. According to research from University Partnerships Programme (UPP), almost half of first year students and applicants (45%) say they would be disappointed if there is a reduction in EU and international students at their university – while a further 1 in 5 first year students and applicants claim they would feel as if they were ‘missing out' if there were fewer EU and international students on campus.

Danielle continues, "It seems that post-Brexit, some EU students don't want to study in the UK. A year on, there's still uncertainty for EU students. Naturally, they're worried about how it could affect them and they're not applying to our higher educational system as a result."

Britain continues to boast some of the world’s best universities, with six ranked in the top 25 globally, not to mention a great reputation for research and development facilities. However, now many students from EU countries who might have chosen to study here will no longer be able to afford the fees – and by consequence, other living expenses such as rent.

This September many students will be eagerly anticipating their first day at university, or with the rise of apprenticeships and uni alternatives, many will realise the value of learning skills on the job whilst earning a wage. Here at Wildfire our expertise in the education sector ensures we’re going to be especially interested to find out what’s going to become of the changing face of the UK education system.

What do you think of the fluctuating student application numbers and the real cost of the university experience? Share your views by tweeting us @Wildfire_C or heading to our Facebook page @WildfireComms .

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