LD EVENTS: GLOBAL STUDENT HOUSING 2021 CONFERENCE
'WHERE ARE THE FUTURE OPPORTUNITIES WITHIN STUDENT HOUSING?'

Martin Hadland
September 2021

I was delighted to chair the LD Events Student Housing conference in September.  It was a hybrid conference, but it was the first time that people had been able to come together in person for 18 months.  The energy and buzz in the room was intoxicating (as were the after-conference drinks!) and it was a testament to the LD Event’s team’s organisational skills that we stuck to time.   The whole agenda was packed with excellent speakers and panellists with exceptional industry knowledge and I certainly learned a great deal.  Among the key takeaways for me were:

 

  • More than any conference I have been to before, the message of the resilience and optimism of the relative strength and performance of the sector was based on hard evidence rather than logical but predictive expert opinion, and it was good to hear the optimistic messages of resilience tempered by some scars of realism over the last year and a half.

  • Nick Hillman from HEPI’s wise and oft-stated reminder that 18-year-olds will generally behave highly rationally is something I need to have made into one of those laminated inspirational messages to put on the office wall.

  • Location, location, location – it has always been true, but certain cities with a high proportion of international students have been hit worse than others, micro-location is now more important than ever and the new dimension for me was Tim Pankhurst’s proposition that you also need to consider where a city is in the development cycle which is a relatively new phenomenon for PBSA.

  • Conditions for potential student number growth are strong, both in the UK and internationally, but will universities have the space to accommodate more students and will government policy permit the current participation rate in a larger 18-year-old cohort?  Watch this space to see what is in the long-awaited white paper. 

  • Partnership with universities is more important than ever.  Not only are universities more likely to be looking at PPP deals, but the pandemic has caused them to reflect more deeply on what their relationship with direct let providers housing significant numbers of their students should be.  The pandemic has increased the extent to which universities have their reputation at stake even when there is no contractual link other than that between the student and the PBSA provider.

  • Finally, we all knew it anyway, but the sector has fabulous people on the front line in both university and PBSA assets.  To hear senior people from the universities and large PBSA providers identifying the massive efforts their people had put in, the initiative they have shown and the willingness to do whatever it takes to deliver the best student experience they can under the most adverse of circumstances was remarkable. 

 

I thoroughly enjoyed chairing the day and seeing some familiar and new faces.  Long live the face to face conference!