When the Brexit referendum was announced, the tertiary-education sector very quickly announced itself to be pro-remain as it feared that the UK’s departure from the EU would lead to a reduction in the number of EU academics (both undergraduates and graduates) coming to study in the UK.
So far, however, those fears have not been realized, even though EU students coming to the UK know that they could be completing their degree in a post-Brexit world. Now, there is even more reassurance for the UK’s universities, in the form of highly-welcomed student-visa reforms.
The visa reforms in brief
Although the changes are being billed as reforms, it would arguably be more accurate to describe them as the reversal of previous reforms, specifically the ones introduced in 2012 under which the post-study period in which students were permitted to work was slashed from two years to four months.
This was widely perceived as a knee-jerk reaction to various scandals relating to the abuse of the student-visa process.
While there was never any real dispute that the student-visa process needed to be cleaned up, there was widespread dismay at the fact that so many legitimate students were being penalized for the misdeeds of a fairly small number of people with whom they had no connection.
At the time, however, the reforms only impacted international students from non-EU countries, post-Brexit, however, they would have (potentially) impacted a much larger number of people. It is therefore entirely possible that Brexit simply gave politicians the excuse they needed to roll back unwelcome reforms without having to admit that they overreacted to the student-visa issues of the past.
Good news for students is usually good news for property investors
Students are natural renters, which is why university cities are so popular with property investors. Those interested in commercial property will benefit from the high demand for purpose-built student accommodation, while those interested in standard residential buy-to-let will usually find plenty of options both in the “student-sharers” market and in the HMO market.
The updates to the student-visa regulations are likely to be of particular interest to property investors focused on the PBSA market. This tends to be the one which international students tend to gravitate to, as PBSAs tend to provide all the basic facilities and amenities they need in a small area.
PBSA’s are also generally located in places which are within easy commuting distance of the university with which they are associated (many of them are literally within walking distance of it), which enables them to concentrate on more important matters such as improving their English, making friends and adjusting to the general way of life in the UK.
While there is a UK-wide demand for new PBSA, it is particularly acute in certain areas, notably the Midlands and north of England and also Wales, especially Cardiff, where there is believed to be approximately 2.5 students for every one PBSA place along with an acute shortage of supply in the residential buy-to-let market.
Unless action is taken, the scale of this problem is only going to increase as student numbers continue to rise.