This year, one of the major questions on the lips of the government, the press and property landlords has been "How will student numbers be affected by the hike in university tuition fees?"
Figures suggest that, nationally, university admissions have dropped by 7%. Of course, the knock-on effect is that many cities will see a drop in student numbers and, along with this, a fall in demand for student accommodation.
The picture in Manchester, however, remains rosy. Having two of the largest universities in the country, the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, based in the city, as well as Salford University just over the city border, Manchester has still welcomed around 20,000 new students into the area over the past couple Of weeks. This figure, added to the number of existing students returning to study, means that Manchester retains its average student population of 80-90,000. Students form an important part of our community in Manchester, representing almost a fifth of the city's population.
As a result, at this time of year, lettings agents see their student custom go through the roof as people try to secure accommodation for the new academic year. Although a number of customers come through the door looking for somewhere close to their university, there is also a large proportion of students who want to take advantage of living in other areas of the city, whether it's for the shopping, nightlife, culture or just To give them some distance between the campus and the place they will call home.
Manchester's excellent travel links, with five train stations accessible from the city center, the continuous extending Metrolink tram system, a large bus network and our own major international airport, make the city attractive to potential students arriving from other parts of the UK and abroad as They can easily escape back to their parents' places for a break from student life. It also means that more areas of the city are accessible to students who do not want to live smack-bang in the city center. Many take advantage of the excellently-serviced Oxford Road Corridor, often cited as "the busiest bus route in Europe", to live in Fallowfield, Didsbury, Chorlton and beyond. On the other side of town, students have the option of finding slightly less pricey accommodation in Salford, where, in certain areas, a two-bedroom flat can cost the same per month as a city-center studio. There is also a healthy flow of student customers in Salford Quays nowdays, an area which appeals often to mature students or postgraduates looking for a more exclusive feel to the area where they live.
Some lucky students also have parents with a keen eye for an investment, who have been taking advantage of the continuing low sales rates to purchase accommodation for their loved ones rather than forking out high prices for monthly rentals. Such parents have found that by putting forward a decent-sized deposit, their monthly mortgage repayments can be much lower than rent costs.
But the majority of students will always rent. Many university courses continue to be oversubscribed, particularly in popular university cities like Manchester and, accordingly, there is still high competition for rental property in the late summer and early autumn.
2011 was an exceptional year for student rents. Last summer, properties were flying off the rentals market a matter of hours after they were advertised, leading both to a shortage of available properties for students and to an increase in rental prices due to high demand. This was a marker of the last-minute rush for university places prior to this year's tuition fee price rise and made securing a student home more stressful for all concerned.
Now things have gone back to normal and, although rental property is still reliably scarcely, particularly when students are competitive with an increasing number of young professionals who have put off buying due to the recession, it does mean that there is a better amount of Choice for students this September.
So for those students who have still not quite found the place that they are looking for, there is property out there – and continued demand for housing means that the property development that came to a halt due to the credit crunch has begun to pick up again . Indeed, the future looks bright for Manchester, its student population and the housing market overall.