With a gap in funding when it comes to developing and regenerating infrastructure - a gap which has almost universally widened due to constraints arising from the Covid-19 pandemic - universities are increasingly looking to PPPs or joint venture arrangements to deliver much-needed student accommodation developments as they look to attract the best and brightest in an increasingly competitive market.
From delivering mental health services to providing comfortable, secure accommodation for students, it’s fair to say that much is expected of universities in terms of managing student welfare, and the latest data from the Global Projects Tracker (GloPro) demonstrates that housing is a key component of universities’ offer to increasingly discerning students.
Figures reveal a steady flow of 31 university accommodation PPP projects entering either the planning or procurement phase over the course of the previous 12 months, highlighting the ongoing trend for using PPPs to deliver student housing projects.
Add to that the financial close of the College of William & Mary in Virginia, and the preferred bidder announcement for the University of Chichester in the UK, and the sector is clearly in a healthy position.
And there is good reason to believe that the pipeline will remain strong. According to research conducted in 2022 in the US by the Chronicle of Higher Education and P3•EDU, 71% of university leaders said they were interested in expanding PPPs on their campus.
As well as student housing, universities are also increasingly looking to provide social and health focused offerings such as mental health services, the research found. There is also an appetite for a wide range of new or expanded services, including developing campus facilities and expanding online services.
In the UK and Europe, meanwhile, the higher education sector has a proven track record of successfully utilising the PPP model to deliver new projects, with little sign of any slowdown in terms of the volume of projects entering and coming through procurement.
Projects are also becoming more diverse, with moves to involve more than simple accommodation. Research and technological development partnerships are seeing a rise in appetite for delivery as new projects emerge into the market, with the Sant'Anna Scientific-Technological Park in Italy and the Science & Innovation Park at Keele University in the UK being two recent examples.
Further afield, PPPs are increasingly being used as the preferred delivery method for new student accommodation: Uzbekistan has seen six new student housing projects launched within the previous 12 months (including the Samarkand State University Student Housing tendered in March), while the UAE’s Khalifa University Student Accommodation project and Malawi’s Student Housing programme are further signs of the continued expansion of the sector into new and emerging markets.
As projects continue to emerge around the world, the higher education market is one that looks set to remain at the heart of the PPP industry for many years to come. Add in the growing trend in North America for schemes focusing on campus energy renewal (such as the recent request for information issued by the University of Ottawa), and it is clear that this is an expanding and developing sector, with opportunities for a wide range of private sector partners.