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How to Make Student Accommodation More Affordable

Lady standing on a university campus

In a new paper from the Higher Education Policy Institute (, Student Accommodation: The State of the Nation in 2024. Martin Blakey, the former Chief Executive of the Leeds-based student housing charity Unipol. Explains the changes in the student accommodation market that have led to higher rents.

Following the recent announcement that the maximum maintenance loan in England will increase by only 2.5% in 2024/25 and the fact that rents have been rising faster than maintenance support. The HEPI Policy Note outlines a possible new approach, including:

  • introducing an adjustable energy supplement on rents, encouraging better use of energy;
  • organising flats in clusters of 12 to 20 students, around a central kitchen/leisure area;
  • smaller pod-sized rooms, perhaps of around 10m2, including en suite;
  • good communal spaces for lounge and study areas – especially important when rooms are smaller;
  • overnight security only or more cooperation with universities’ own security services;
  • buildings of around 300 to 350 student beds, to try and get the best fit on running costs; and
  • mixing up room sizes and facilities within one building, with rooms differentially priced.

Sector Reactions

Martin Blakey, author of Student Accommodation: The State of the Nation in 2024 (HEPI Policy Note 52), said:

“Student housing is an education issue. If you cannot find safe, accessible and affordable accommodation, your learning suffers.

“We have gradually reached a position where the current student accommodation model is not working well for many students. Factors such as higher interest rates, increased regulation and a changing pattern of higher education are all affecting the student housing market.

“The time has come for a new approach, with more innovative provision and more sensible regulation alongside a more sustainable regime for student maintenance support.”

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:

“There is a serious cost-of-living crisis among students. Rents have been rising more slowly than inflation but they have been going up faster than the maintenance support on offer to students.

“The costs of providing new student accommodation have shot up, thanks in large part to higher interest rates and increased construction costs. Meanwhile, the supply shared student houses of the sort of made famous by The Young Ones, which were once the norm for second and third-year students, has reduced.

“Parsimonious Ministers have been reluctant to increase maintenance loans anything like in line with actual inflation, meaning many students are having to work ever more hours, which can affect their studies. Students from more disadvantaged backgrounds in particular are losing out.

“We need creative thinking and innovation. Martin Blakey’s proposals offer one possible way ahead. We hope people will engage with the ideas and propose others of their own.”

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