The future of student accommodation: Insights from the UCAS webinar and beyond

Tuesday 24 October 2023, Accommodation


The future of student accommodation: Insights from the UCAS webinar and beyond

The student accommodation sector is poised for significant transformation. In response to shifting demographics, global trends, and evolving student needs, stakeholders are exploring new avenues to ensure the housing market remains both sustainable and student-centred.

Here's a look at some of the key insights gathered from the UCAS recent webinar episode Journey to a Million.

The ‘Journey to a Million’ and UCAS webinar series insights

This episode of the UCAS webinar series, in collaboration with Knight Frank and Unite, unravelled the distinctions of future student accommodation requirements. Sarah Canning, co-founder of The Property Marketing Strategists, introduced the expert panel: Ben Jordan, Head of Policy at UCAS, Katie O'Neill, Investment Researcher at Knight Frank, Ollie Wells, Customer Success Director at UCAS, and Stuart Henderson, Operations Director at MYS Living. 

Our specialist line-up touched upon the anticipated increase in the 18-year-old population by 2030 and its implications on student housing.

As Katie O'Neill from Knight Frank put it:

The accommodation market is about to witness an unprecedented demand surge. It's an exciting challenge, one that requires foresight and adaptability.

There's a prediction of one million higher education applicants in a single cycle by 2030, up from the present three-quarters of a million. Diversity remains a focal point, with different student demographics having unique accommodation requirements.

Ben Jordan emphasised:

Understanding these diverse needs is not just about market demand but about ensuring that every student feels seen and heard.

This is further amplified by UCAS data, which indicates a 450% rise in mental health declarations, underscoring the importance of accommodation that bolsters mental well-being.

Anticipated population spike and Its challenges

This demographic rise, accentuated by an increase in African applicants, represents both a challenge and an opportunity. It's a testament to the global appeal of higher education institutions, but also signals the need for infrastructural readiness.

Stuart Henderson from MYS Living noted:

As demographics evolve, our strategies must be nimble. We're tasked with envisioning the future without neglecting the present.

Knight Frank's research emphasises students' increasing discernment given the rising living costs. Notable accommodation supply disparities in cities like Bristol and Manchester amplify the urgency for data-informed solutions.

The evolution and redefinition of student housing

Changing times bring about new preferences and requirements. With a growing emphasis on sustainability, community, and inclusivity, student housing must embody these values.

Jane Thompson, representing the student body, reflected:

Our accommodations are more than just physical spaces; they symbolise our aspirations, values, and the world we envision.

Ollie Wells from UCAS highlighted:

Students today are driving change. Their evolving preferences around rebooking and environmental conservation exemplify their proactive role in reshaping the accommodation landscape.

Innovative payment structures, like 'pay-as-you-go' models, reflect the sector's adaptability and responsiveness to emerging trends.

Reimagining accommodation through collaboration

The call for an all-inclusive student housing model is loud and clear. Beyond just the basics, there's a rising demand for accommodation that guarantees safety, promotes mental well-being, and situates students within accessible distances of essential amenities.

Ollie Wells offered an insightful perspective on branding, saying:

A brand transcends the physical. It's the embodiment of trust, lived experiences, and the consistent delivery on promises made.

Cassandra Lee from the Green Campus Initiative emphasised:

Today’s students champion sustainability. Eco-friendly accommodations are not just desirable; they're a non-negotiable.

Strategies like Nottingham's student living model, which banks on collaboration, could offer solutions to the industry's dual challenge of ensuring quality while managing costs.


The journey to 2030, with its goal of accommodating a million students, is paved with unique challenges and unparalleled opportunities. Success lies in the details – understanding the evolving student psyche, leveraging data for strategic decisions, and embracing collaborative models. The future holds promise, but the path forward requires innovation, empathy, and an unwavering focus on student welfare.

Reach out to our team for a discussion and expert guidance. Drop us an email at, and let's collaboratively navigate the future of student accommodations marketing.