Posted On Monday, 4th November 2013
UAE property investors capitalising on rising student expectations
A cursory search online easily reveals the growing number of international students now studying at universities and colleges in Dubai and the wider United Arab Emirates (UAE). A simple search also shows how the provision of first-class accommodation is helping boost student numbers.
With rising tuition fees and living costs, students expect so much more than simply a bed and somewhere to sleep, a situation many of their parents probably had to endure. However, in today's austerity-driven world, where value for money is more important than ever before, spartan accommodation is not as acceptable as it once was.
It's a change in attitude not lost on the UAE's property investors and developers who have been quick to capitalise on the rising expectations of students both at home and abroad. Earlier this year, it was announced a group of private investors from Dubai had taken a 36% stake in Munich-based listed student housing company International Campus.
And in August, the Dubai-based investor firm The Abraaj Group announced the acquisition of a significant stake in Istanbul-based student accommodation provider Republika Academic Apartments. The two properties acquired, totalling 1,274 beds, are situated in Ortakoy and Buyucekmece, both strong catchment areas for students, young professionals and apartment hotel guests in Istanbul.
The properties, said The Abraaj Group, which are designed, built and operated to the highest standard, provide a host of amenities and services including cafés, restaurants, pool, gym, study and games room, which combine to create a desirable new living experience for students and young people in Istanbul.
According to ICEF Monitor, which describes itself as a dedicated market intelligence resource for the international education industry, the message from campus administrators around the globe is that housing draws international students.
ICEF says, “Because of this, not only are community colleges adding dorms, but at universities in countries where student accommodation is typically offered, the number and quality of those lodgings is increasing, and the diversity of the amenities offered is widening.”
For example, says ICEF, at the University of Colorado's Boulder Campus, the new residence hall Kittredge Central features an environmentally sustainable design and caters to students in the school's engineering programme by offering, among other specifics, Spanish language immersion.
A different example comes from University College Cork, in Cork, Ireland, where students are able to apply for residency in an alcohol-free dorm. The measure was conceived as way to combat binge drinking, but also represents another attempt by university administrators to cater to students' specific living or cultural requirements.
Despite the boom in student residence construction, there is conflicting research about whether accommodation quality affects school choice. Property investor advisors Knight Knox International says today's university students see traditional residence halls as inadequate. An increasing number of students, especially those from overseas, want boutique-style accommodation, and such facilities have higher occupancy rates.
On the opposite side of the issue, says ICEF, economists Kevin Rask and Amanda Griffith, of Colorado College and Wake Forest University respectively, conducted research which found that price and prestige remained the most important factors in school choice.
The full ICEF Monitor article is available here.