Recent years have seen a noticeable digitisation of the student housing market: the majority of universities now have their own websites for booking campus accommodation, a variety of search engines can help students find a place to live, and real estate portals offer sections especially for students. Despite the increased accessibility of student accommodation online, there is still more to be done by the industry as a whole in terms of addressing the full needs of the student journey. What’s more, there are still only a few platforms built from-the-ground-up for international students.
For international students, the recent rise of digital platforms, especially for overseas student housing, is important news. In finding a suitable place to live abroad, international students face a number of serious obstacles. Many have little to no prior knowledge of their overseas university destination before arriving, and don’t know which neighborhoods to look in and what to expect. Language barriers make it difficult to communicate specific housing needs, and lack of local knowledge means that students, who often have to work within a budget, are uninformed on what they can get for their money in their destination.
At the same time, the number of international higher education students has been rising steadily: Recent data shows that it’s growing at an average annual rate of 6.4%. In the UK alone, there are 436,880 international university students, accounting for 20% of the total student population in the country.
As a result, the growth of international students has significantly outpaced universities’ development of student housing over the past ten years. When it comes to finding housing for the 5 million students who currently study overseas, it’s easy to imagine why a digital marketplace dedicated to offering an unprecedented level of support every step of the way of finding a home abroad would be well-received by the international student community. In addition, digital platforms have given landlords and property developers in destination countries direct access to thousands of overseas students who are looking to rent.
“I first experienced the need for a digital platform for overseas student accommodation when studying in China, where friends would ask for help in finding somewhere to live before studying abroad. The demand was overwhelming. Unsurprisingly, Chinese students are the largest international student body in the UK, followed by India and Nigeria.”
Today, Student.com lists properties in 18 countries across over 400 cities worldwide. That’s a lot of different needs, preferences, and languages to be working with; all the more reason why a truly global digital student housing market is important for today’s international students.