Student accommodation provider GSA recently opened a show flat for its Kavanagh Court development in Dublin, which will provide 491 beds under the Uninest brand.
Ireland launches student accommodation strategy

The Irish government has released a student accommodation strategy, aiming to provide an additional 21,000 beds for higher education students by 2024 and increase the country's attractiveness to international students.

The National Student Accommodation Strategy was jointly unveiled recently by: the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton; the Minister of State for Higher Education, Mary Mitchell O'Connor; and the Minister for Housing and Urban Renewal, Damien English.


It enhances and extends last year's Rebuilding Ireland plan that set a goal of 7,000 purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA) spaces by 2019 - a target the ministers said was now likely to be exceeded, based on completed projects (1,117 beds), current construction work (5,000 beds) and planning permission grants (almost 2,000).


In the new strategy document, the government said that the significant increase in demand for higher education places was expected to continue, and that "this increase in student numbers, including international students, is creating an unprecedented demand for suitable, affordable student accommodation".


Currently, there are 33,441 PBSA bed spaces in Ireland, with 21,681 in the private sector and 11,760 operated by higher education institutions. In the projections of the strategy, this should reach 54,654 beds available by 2024, but still falling short of the predicted demand of 75,640 beds.


Introducing the report, Minister Bruton said that housing output in Ireland fell by 90 per cent between 2006 and 2013 and that the country lost a decade's worth of home building after the 2008 economic crash. "Eleven months into the implementation of Rebuilding Ireland, there is strong evidence that the focus on increasing and accelerating supply is starting to work, with planning permissions and commencement notices both up," he said.


"Through the implantation of this plan we are aiming to deliver an additional 21,000 purpose-built student accommodation bed space places by 2024. Through the Student Accommodation Strategy we will ensure that this target can be reached."


The government said that currently in Ireland around 18 per cent of full-time students are accommodated in PBSA, which it said was low compared to a rate of 27 per cent in the UK.


"Appropriately located, high-quality, purpose-built and professionally managed accommodation can make educational institutions more attractive to students from Ireland and abroad," the authors stated.


Referring to the International Education Strategy for Ireland, released last year, the authors of the accommodation report said that the number of international students in higher education in Ireland increased by 58 per cent between 2010/11 and 2014/15 to 33,118 students, and that the government's target was for 44,000 international students by 2019/20.


The government stated that the impact of Brexit and potential movement of higher numbers of European students to Ireland as well as fewer Irish students heading across the Irish Sea to study following the UK's pull-out from the EU had not been factored into the report's projections, but could have a further significant impact on demand for accommodation.


The strategy also outlines a target of 4,000 students per year for the #homesforstudy campaign run by the Union of Students in Ireland (USI), which promotes 'digs' accommodation in family homes and provided housing for 2,478 students in 2016/17.


Minister O'Connor said funding of EU160,100 had been committed to support the campaign over the next two years, and that homeowners could earn up to EU14,000 a year tax-free from accommodating students.


The English language sector was acknowledged in the accommodation strategy, where the government cited data from StudyTravel Magazine's annual Global Market Report to indicate that the average stay for ELT students lengthened to 6.1 weeks in 2015. Nonetheless, the government stated that ELT students are generally a cohort with accommodation needs met through short-term lets or the private rental sector and that the strategy does not include any additional demand based on students from this segment.



By Matthew Knott

News Editor