Rents for student accommodation have increased by an average of 14.6% over the past two academic years, according to a new report from Unipol and HEPI, meaning they now swallow up nearly all of the average maintenance loan – the NUS demands action.
The report provides an authoritative picture of student living, conducted in response to the unprecedent rent rises and supply issues witnessed over the past two academic years. It includes data voluntarily submitted by both universities and the ten largest providers of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation operating across ten major regional university cities who collectively manage more than 125,000 beds in those cities.
In 2021/22 average annual rents stood at £6,520, and increased to £7,475 in 2023/24 across the ten key regional university cities. Across England as a whole, average annual rents now stand at £7,566 for the current academic year (2023/24).
Using ONS forecasting, the average maintenance loan received by English students this current academic year is expected to be £7,590 versus the average rent in England which stands at £7,566, meaning rents swallow up virtually 100% of the average loan, leaving a mere £24 left over for other living essentials, equating to 50p a week. It also equates to more than three quarters (76%) of the maximum maintenance loan.
Reacting to the data, NUS UK Vice President for Higher Education, Chloe Field, said: “NUS has warned about spiralling rents for a long time now and it being the main driver of the perfect storm which is afflicting students – alongside the cost-of-living crisis and inflation which has led to soaring energy bills and travel costs. This report is one of many showing the definitive proof of just how bad things have got and government and the universities simply cannot ignore it any longer. The fact that students living under the constant threat of homelessness due to not being able to afford rent has become the norm shows how this government has acted with absolutely no care for students or the future of this country.”
The highest rents and increases are in the most undersupplied cities. Bristol now has the UK’s highest average annual rent at £9,200 per year, with Exeter at £8,559 and Glasgow at £7,548.
Glasgow saw the highest rental growth at 20.4% over the past two years, followed by 16.1% in Exeter and 15.5% in Nottingham.
Figure 1: Rental breakdown across the 10 major regional cities
|City||Annual average rent 2023/24||Average % increase since 2021/22|
Other large rises were seen in Leeds (14.7% rise to £7,627) and Bournemouth (11.2% rise to £7,396). Meanwhile, Liverpool, Cardiff and Sheffield are deemed the most affordable, with lower annual rents of £6,400-£6,600 and smaller annual increases. The reason for the more moderate increases are due to the healthier supply levels across these markets.
Victoria Tolmie-Loverseed, Assistant Chief Executive at Unipol, said: “Student housing has reached a crisis point in affordability, underpinned by these alarming figures. Rents are rising rapidly just as real-terms government support has stagnated. With rents consuming unhealthy levels of an average maintenance loan, students are being forced to take desperate measures – illegally doubling up in rooms, taking on increasing amounts of paid work or even avoiding university altogether due to costs.
“Failing to address the student housing crisis risks undermining decades of progress in widening participation in higher education. We risk excluding those from poorer backgrounds, forcing middle-income students to take on unsustainable debts, and damaging the student experience for all.”