WiFi completes the PBSA offering

Claudia Schoendorff
23 Aug 2022

A gap in the market 

As some may know, the UK has faced a housing crisis for many years now, whilst opening more and more enrolment positions to its universities, causing an even greater crisis for the newly arrived international students. To combat this, private developers have created housing specifically designed for students in university cities and beyond. 

Purpose-Built Student Accommodations are a booming market in the UK right now. One of the most mature in Europe, students from all parts of the country and the world come to the UK universities to receive some of the best education from the best institutions. Today, the market accounts for 681,000 beds across the UK. 

The history of PBSA

According to the Select Property Groups Investor Guide to student property, the start of the international student migration to the towns/cities where they were to attend university goes back as far as 1815. This time saw the integration of international students into the university culture, as well as the local culture - mostly thanks to Britains' colonial powers.  A century later, in 1919, the University Grants Committee (UGC) was created. This was the public institutionalisation of universities (excluding Oxford and Cambridge), providing all universities up to a third of their funding from the state. By 1962, the UGC provided every student with fees and maintenance grants, which created a nationwide migration of students for the first time. This pushed universities to provide halls of residences to give the full university experience to their students. 

In 2000, the rise of the Internet made students aware of overseas universities, allowing them to book their courses and accommodation online. The international student population doubled from 2.1 million in 2000 to 4.5 million in 2011. Out of the 4.5 million international students, 2 million were attending British universities by 2011. Unfortunately, university-owned accommodation was undersupplied in the country. This brought in the need for privately owned accommodation, or the PBSA, which gave higher quality accommodation, inclusive bills, professional management, internet access, and a secure environment. 

A desire for closer proximity to the university, better living conditions, rent included facilities, and a need of belonging amongst peers shaped the future for PBSAs for the years to come. 

International students driving the connectivity growth

Technology is key for international students. Being able to keep in touch with their families and friends back home requires a good connection to the internet. In fact, according to the Octopus Groups impact report, international students are more likely to prioritise technology than their British peers. This includes ensuring their accommodation has speedy and dependable WiFi. 

Coming from abroad, many international students look at their accommodation as a place to meet peers, make new friends, create new experiences, and find a sense of belonging after being separated from their families. 

Better WiFi is the number one service students will pay a premium for, alongside more space, on-site gyms and 24-hour security. Students are less willing to pay premiums for swimming pools, cinemas and game rooms. 

Technology has transformed education

Universities have changed a lot since the mass introduction of WiFi. All of a sudden the Internet gives students access to books and lessons, extracurricular help, and direct communication to professors and peers. 

Vignette Premières années détudes distance - copie

With students using online learning for convenience or different learning styles, access to the internet has never been more crucial. There are several reasons why distance learning has become so popular: 

  1. Distance learning can be cheaper
  2. Distance learning can allow students to have more flexible learning hours that don’t conflict with other priorities
  3. Distance learning can allow someone who can’t move to the city where the university is to get the diploma anyway
  4. Distance learning allows for continuous studies, even in times of global crisis

PBSA offering had to adapt 

This shift has prompted PBSA operators to adapt their offer. With such high density of usage in the building, a standard WiFi infrastructure will not be up to the task. A professional WiFi and fibre network is the only way for the network to sustain this high density of usage, even at peak times, without any interferences or bandwidth problems. These Fibre Leased Lines provide you with guaranteed recovery times, guaranteed bandwidth, static public IP addresses and symmetrical upload and download speeds. 

Wifirst gives PBSA operators the chance to focus on their core business- growing their community and offering the best and most comfortable "home from home" experience to their residents. Dealing with slow or failing network infrastructures can be time consuming, stressful, and expensive. Our "as a service" model is the best way to relieve you of this, with 24/7 technical support through our online portal, social media or online chat, proactive monitoring tools for continual analysis of the equipment and its performance, remote interventions or on-site issue detection, all to make sure there is always someone else looking after the network, providing you with a one-stop solution developed and improved especially with the PBSA market in mind.

Some interesting PBSA trends

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  • Distance learning is not going away. Distance learning will have a positive impact and will enhance face-to-face learning, not replace it
  • Quality is at the forefront. The university experience is still depending on the role accommodation has on the student. Looking for a high-quality experience will be a need for all students, not just first-year students. 
  • International students are coming back. Even with the uncertainty the latest pandemic brought, it seems that the lowered demand from international students has picked up to a significant uptick for the upcoming school year. 
  • Continuous innovation, bringing value for money. There is a wider range of price points in the PBSA market. Fortunately, students are now seeing the value PBSA’s have in comparison to other forms of accommodation, now not only looking for quality, but for community.
  • Student wellbeing is kept at the forefront.  High-quality accommodation has received positive feedback from students who claim their living situation to have been a major factor in their physical and mental wellbeing. Programs are rolling in thanks to ESG investment and mental health awareness which will focus on offering a greater difference for the student when picking between PBSA and HMO.

These findings from the 2021 Knight Frank student report highlight some very positive trends for the industry.