■ Threats: Political risks to the sector are common in many markets. Open and flexible immigration policies for higher education are important to attract both international students and the best university staff. In the UK, for example, uncertainty after the EU referendum on the future treatment of EU students, and employees, in UK higher education adds to medium-term risk. Policy makers need to acknowledge the important role higher education plays in both local and national economies.
■ Investment: Global investment has been steadily diversifying outside of the core US and UK markets over the past 12 months. Levels of funding into Western European countries has grown significantly over this period. We expect to see further expansion as the sector develops in mainland Europe and Australia as new stock developed now paves the way for institutional investment in the future.
■ Management: As the sector grows in mainland Europe, a lack of specialist student housing managers is holding back increased institutional investor appetite. There is an opportunity for existing operators to expand their management platforms to fill the void.
■ Demand: Growing international student numbers secure the market for premium PBSH product, but there remains a huge untapped market for more affordable private accommodation. High land values, development costs will impede this in many markets, but upgrading of existing university stock or establishment of new models may be a route in. The delivery of PBSH offsets pressure on the local, often low-cost, housing sector, improving capacity in both.
■ Technology: In a connected world, PBSH providers are better able to market themselves on a global stage. The development student housing portals and community platforms will help to raise awareness across global markets. Branding is increasingly important in establishing operator profiles, providing a point of differentiation and building a following that crosses borders.