Earlier this month Mark Morgan – The Senior Vice President of Brand and Operations at urbanest, answered a few questions about the London student accommodation market for ‘Study Travel Magazine’. It gives a brief insight into urbanest as a company, and how it works developing products for the London student markets…
Do you have any recent developments at urbanest? or any on the horizon?
Urbanest has over 2500 beds in the development pipeline, all opening in Central London’s zone 1. We currently have two operational properties, both fully let at Urbanest Hoxton and Urbanest Tower Bridge and we open our newest development at Urbanest Kings Cross in a matter of weeks, which is ideally located for all major London Universities, close to The London School of Economics, University College London, SOAS and is ‘literally’ on the doorstep of the new Central St Martin’s College, part of The University of the Arts. We have further properties opening in September 2014 in Camden on the Regent’s Canal and in September 2015 at Westminster Bridge, with stunning views of Parliament, Big Ben and The Thames. The Westminster Bridge property is extremely close to all Kings College London campuses.
We have developed close links and partnerships with many of London’s globally recognised institutions, largely as a result of the locations of our properties (all in Central London), the sector leading specification (under-floor heating, acoustically engineered quieter study bedrooms, up to 25mb internet throughout and designed-in communal study areas), the provision of a new level of customer service in this sector with dedicated, well trained teams on-site, a genuine intent to work closely with universities and colleges to assist them in achieving their strategies and most importantly the provision of safe and secure environments for students supported by staff presence 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Have you noticed any trends in demand over the last year or so for student accommodation in London, in terms of types of accommodation demanded, nationality/age/level of students, length of stay, types of room?
We invest significantly in research; work very closely with Universities and Colleges… these factors coupled with our extensive experience in the HE sector puts us in an unrivaled position in the London student accommodation market to meet the changing needs of the student population coming to London. Our focus clearly differentiates us in the private accommodation market… aside from the points mentioned above, we will have a wide range of room types and price points for students to choose from… this means we can offer studio apartments, en-suite rooms in shared flats, private rooms in a shared apartment, as well as a new twin room that will offer students the chance to live in Central London from £159 per week. We believe offering this range of room types is important, as well as offering the exceptional quality throughout. Our experience is that students want a choice of rooms but with a consistent standard of service, security and quality, available at Urbanest student accommodation.
Increasingly, students seem to want to stay for a full year, however, as I said previously, we work closely with major institutions and do offer flexible tenancy lengths to support their strategies.
In your opinion, are there any factors positively or negatively impacting upon the London student accommodation business for internationals?
Interestingly, you would expect cyclical trends (given exchange rate movement and government legislation) however, within the UK, Urbanest focuses solely on London, which is recognised as one of the leading cities globally for Higher Education, as well as a great place to live in and experience. The draw of London and the exceptional depth in the quality of education on offer means we remain positive on the continued growth of students coming to London. We believe it will be critical to offer a range of room types, to Urbanest quality standards, located well and with the exceptional customer service on offer at Urbanest.
How do you take most of your bookings? Are they direct lets, nomination agreements, or are you looking for more agent partners from any particular markets?
As I have mentioned previously, Urbanest works closely with several of London’s leading Universities and Colleges (I should add we also operate in Australia in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and Brisbane), as a result, a proportion of our rooms are booked directly with them. Individual students can also book and pay independently via our website or directly at the property or show suite we have at Urbanest Kings Cross. More recently, we have been working with Foundation Colleges and Language Centres providing longer term accommodation to support their programmes. Urbanest is also active with Education Agents in several markets around the world and is keen to expand this network both in the UK and Australian business.