the class of 2020 - radar - interviews
TREND ANALYSIS
April 23rd, 2020

The Student Accommodation industry prepares for a ‘blended’ academic year commencing in Fall 2020

 Even with 90% expecting international student enrollment numbers to drop, the industry forecasts blended learning to safeguard the ‘normal’ academic calendar

Highlights

  • 91.24% of respondents anticipate the next academic year will start in Fall 2020, more than half of them (46.54%) in September
  • Blended learning dominates the sentiment, scoring 82.03%
  • Industry expects a definite drop in both international student enrollment numbers and student accommodation occupancy rate, but is more optimistic occupancy, suggesting a flexible approach to market changes

While the first and the second student accommodation industry sentiment surveys focused on understanding changing priorities in relation to industry responses, support required during the pandemic and anticipated recovery period, the third edition addresses the most frequently asked question: what will happen to the next academic year?

Q. When do you think the next academic year will commence?

The industry shared optimism, with 91.24% expecting the next academic year to commence in Fall 2020. 46.54% even stated it will commence in September, with no delay, while 44.7% anticipate a delay. Only 5.99% shared a pessimistic view, stating a delay to the academic calendar will carry over to Calendar Year 2021.  

September 2020100%
100%
In the fall of 2020, but with a delay100%
100%
Earliest in January 2021100%
100%
Later than January 2021100%
100%
Other100%
100%

Understanding that some respondents are based outside of Europe, including in the Southern Hemisphere, where the academic calendar is different from that of Europe, these results indicate that the majority of respondents within the European context either showcase confidence in the resilience of the higher education industry and students’ willingness to continue their learning or are working with an optimistic scenario towards the goal of recovery. 

Q. In which manner do you think the next academic year will commence?

The clear winner is blended learning, defined as a combination of face-to-face and virtual learning with 82.03% respondent choosing that option. Only 17% chose the two extremes, with 11.52% anticipating full-on face-to-face learning and 5.53% anticipating a move to complete virtual learning for the first semester.

Face-to-face100%
100%
Blended: mix of virtual and face-to-face100%
100%
Completely virtual for the first semester100%
100%
Cancelation of the first semester0.92%
0.92%

As many of the higher education institutions are already applying virtual learning to round-up this semester, this result suggests that even with the lock-down potentially being prolonged, the higher education industry is prepared to continue the academic curriculum using a combination of technology and in-person learning experiences

Q. What do you predict will happen to international student enrollment numbers for the next academic year?

With the accelerated internationalisation of higher education seen as a means to maximise learning outcomes through diversity and, in some instances, to secure sufficient revenue for higher education institutions, the big question is how this pandemic will impact international student mobility. Due to the uncertainty over the duration of closed borders, the postponement of qualifying exams, and halting of visa processes, the industry sentiment was rather pessimistic. 90% of respondents anticipate a drop in international student enrollment to a certain degree with 17.97% expecting a drastic drop higher than 50%. 34.1% expect a drop between 25% to 50% while almost equal number (36.87%) a more moderate drop up to 25%.

Same as or similar to usual100%
100%
Slight drop up to 25%100%
100%
Drop between 25-50%100%
100%
Drastic drop higher than 50%100%
100%
Other100%
100%
Q. What is the expected occupancy of your student accommodation for the next academic year?

In line with the expected drop in international student enrollment, the respondents also predicted the occupancy of student accommodation to drop moderately. 22.49% expected occupancy to remain the same or similar to usual, which is more than double the number of the same view on the international student enrollment (9.68%) while an anticipated drastic occupancy drop of higher than 50% only scored 4.78%. This is less than one third of the same view on the enrollment. A predicted occupancy drop between 25% to 50% (14.35%) was less than half of the anticipated enrolment drop.

Same as or similar to usual100%
100%
Slight drop up to 25%100%
100%
Drop between 25-50%100%
100%
Drastic drop higher than 50%100%
100%
Not applicable100%
100%
Other100%
100%

This result suggests that while there is no question that the higher education industry is highly intertwined with the student accommodation industry, especially with regards to international student numbers, the student accommodation industry is not solely dependent on international student mobility. This may be due to anticipations of mobility within the local context and/or the industry’s anticipation of adapting flexibly with regards to target occupants. Note that higher number of ‘not applicable’ responses represents that this question was answered by only those who are in the student accommodation industry or have direct interest in or understanding of the industry.

There were more than 60 meaningful comments shared during the survey. One especially valid comment was raised with regards to the regional differences. Given the diversity of regional contexts in which our community operate, it is difficult to generalize the anticipation, which adds additional challenges in forecasting the future. Others include “a bigger drop is expected in the international exchange student enrollment compared to international degree students,” suggesting the industry should be prepared for another wave of uncertainty. Many raised the challenge of space configuration during the time of social distancing, urging the industry to rethink how social and shared spaces are being used. One of the respondents suggested a paradigm shift: “I am convinced that our view on mobility and internationalisation will change. The two have always been closely linked before, which most probably will change in the future. Internationalisation could be so much more than mobility” and encouraged higher education, student accommodation industries and other closely connected stakeholders to use this opportunity to strengthen collaboration.

The Class of 2020 Student Accommodation Industry Sentiment Survey no.3 was conducted between 21st and 23rd of April, with an aim to understand the anticipation over the next academic year and its impact on the industry.  The survey is meant to represent a snapshot of the current student accommodation landscape, including a diversity of voices. The survey was completed by 217 respondents who are key players of the industry including student accommodation operators/ developers, higher education institutions, investors, suppliers and other stakeholders, mainly operating in the European context.

Do you have any questions that you want to ask The Class Community? Please send us your ideas to info@theclassof2020.org.

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