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Student housing pipeline

The student housing pipeline is receiving a boost with the £1.4 billion acquisition by leading developer and operator Unite, of rival Liberty Living.

The Competition and Markets Authority has decided not to intervene in the deal, which should complete next month and create a mega client in this sector.

Unite will build 6,000 student beds over the next three years and the deal will boost that programme further with major developments in cities such as Bristol (Glenigan Project ID: 19063717)

Richard Smith, chief executive of Unite Students, said: “The enlarged group will be well positioned to meet the growing need for affordable, high quality student accommodation in university towns and cities where demand is strong.” 

Unite already has a swathe of other student accommodation schemes in the pipeline. These range from a £5m extension to a student block in Manchester (Glenigan Project ID: 19285484) to the £200m development City Fringe Student Tower in London (Glenigan Project ID: 18035339).

The new deal will create a larger group and is expected to boost development opportunities and is a reassuring move at a time when student numbers are expected to dip due to a drop in the birth rate.

Watkins Jones expands

Another of the UK’s leading student accommodation developers, Watkin Jones, is also planning expansion.

The Welsh company, which like Unite is listed on the stock exchange, completed six student accommodation schemes containing 2,723 beds in the 12 months to September 30 2019. "We are pleased by the progress achieved by the Group in the last twelve months,” said chief executive Richard Simpson.

The group focuses on forward selling schemes and expects to deliver 3,500 beds a year up to 2024 and Glenigan has identified a number of these student accommodation.

Proposals in Watkin Jones’ development pipeline include a £38m scheme in Bedford for Cranfield University (Project ID: 19379295) due to start next spring and the £25.8m Steelworks House scheme in Sheffield.

Smaller focus

Unite and Watkin Jones tend to focus on larger student accommodation projects, but other developers are pushing on with smaller schemes, such as Torsion.

Leeds-based Torsion started work earlier this year on an £11.3m project to build 210-bed student accommodation scheme in Coventry (Glenigan Project ID: 17342351) and plans to begin construction on 403 student units in Lincoln next spring (Glenigan Project ID: 19054711).

Other student accommodation developers are also waiting until next year before starting projects according to Glenigan’s research.

Construction should start in the New Year on Danehurst’s £11.9m Harvest Road development, which will provide beds for 166 students (Glenigan Project ID: 1825812). Maven Capital is also expected to start building work early next year on a £12m development to house 199 student beds at Portswood Road in Southampton (Project ID: 16006301).


In Glenigan’s last industry forecast published this summer, the value of student accommodation construction projects starting on site was forecast to rise by 6% this year. Glenigan’s next construction forecasts will be published in December.

Image Source: Kate Wilson


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