Accommodation for Students has released its annual report on the costs of student accommodation. It reveals that the average rental value (ARV) in this sector has risen to £86.76 per week per bedroom, up £1.27 from 2015.
Although the growth curve in national weekly rent value shows that the price increase has slowed in 2016 compared with the previous two years, this will come as little conciliation to students embarking on higher education.
Students face increasing costs from all aspects; new inflation-linked upper limit for tuition fees of £9,250, the scrapping of maintenance grants and rising rents. Students in the London region have seen average rents increase by 12% in the last year, sparking plans for a nationwide student rent strike in October.
As expected, high rents remain concentrated in the South, where students pay almost £10 per week more than the rest of the country, and Greater London, where rent costs are some £50 more than most other regions. The top five cities with the most expensive average weekly rents are; London (£148), Uxbridge (£120), Kingston (£118), Exeter (£115) and Aberdeen (£109).
However, there is also some correlation between those cities which offer the most expensive accommodation and their high positioning on the university league tables, with the exception of Loughborough which is ranked 7th but has an ARV of £77.
The cheapest place to live as a student is Wales, where students will find private accommodation is on average £10 per week less than anywhere else. According to the report, Swansea is the 5th cheapest city (£68), some 28% less than the national average. The ARV for Cardiff is £72 and for Bangor is £75.
On average, university cities in the Midlands and the North also offer lower rents than the national average, with examples such as Sheffield (£84), Birmingham (£81), York (£79), Liverpool (£77) and Bolton (£65). However, many of the widest ranges of rents, from very low values alongside the provision of high-end accommodation, are found in these areas also. For example, the weekly rent cost range for Sunderland is from £34 to £175, Birmingham has a similar £140 difference (from £45 to £85) as does Leeds (from £59 to £198).
The proportion of properties offering ‘bills inclusive’ in the UK has grown to 63%, the highest level yet. The average cost of a bills inclusive room is £9 more than the cost of a non-bills inclusive room.
Simon Thompson, director of accommodation for Students, said: “Everyone deserves an education, not just the well-off, but increasing fees, changes to the grant system and rising rents are setting a prime example of elitism. London in particular is home to three of the best universities in the country (London School of Economic, Imperial College London and University College London), yet the severity of the housing crisis in the Capital means that some students are paying nearly the same as the private rented sector for accommodation.
However, with nearly £5.8bn invested in the market last year (according to Knight Frank), there has never been such an extensive range of accommodation choice, from purpose-built student accommodation blocks to the more traditional shared houses offered by private landlords. Students should not be deterred from attending their university of choice based on costs