The University of Chester has responded to suggestions by a community group that student accommodation levels have now reached saturation point.
Chester Community Voice UK (CCV UK) carried out research using a search facility on the university website which indicated 353 empty private student rooms in Chester and Warrington just before start of term.
The group has long been concerned about what it regards as growing imbalance between traditional and student communities with claims of an ‘oversupply of student housing’.
Professor Tim Wheeler, the University of Chester’s vice chancellor, painted a contrasting picture with a boom in demand for course places and accommodation. And he pointed out the vacancies available via the search facility were reliant on private landlords’ updates so could be inaccurate.
He added: “Many relate to rooms in properties which are available for the 2018/19 academic year, so do not reflect the current picture.”
Prof Wheeler continued: “The University of Chester remains a popular choice with students, with seven applicants competing for each available place. A key influence on prospective students applying this autumn will be The Times & The Sunday Times Good University Guide, which this week identified Chester as the fifth highest ‘riser’ in the country.
“With a significant jump of 20 places to joint 61st out of the 129 participating institutions, the university performed particularly well in terms of its teaching quality (26th) and student experience (46th.) Our solid performance in this important league table should stand the university in good stead for 2018 entry and we expect modest continuing growth over the next three years.
“The number of students embarking on qualifications at the University of Chester on all courses (full-time and part-time) has increased from 19,850 in 2016 to 20,771 this autumn. Undergraduate numbers are up 3% and those enrolling for nursing and midwifery are up by 7%, despite the introduction of fees and the abolition of student bursaries nationally, so the University of Chester continues to be a very attractive option.
“All University of Chester owned and managed accommodation is currently full. In addition, the university will have significant numbers of EU and international students joining in January and a second entry point into nursing in March. The majority of these will require accommodation.”
Professor Wheeler said the increase in the amount of private sector purpose-built student blocks presented an opportunity for landlords renting out traditional shared bedsits to explore new markets given ‘some quarters of the community have expressed a wish for more affordable housing’.