‘Younger people want the finer things in life’
features including rooftop bars, saunas, cinema rooms and even a helter skelter, to make getting out of bed and off to morning lectures that little bit more tempting.
Boasting some of the wackiest design is True Glasgow, where KKA Architects installed a giant slide in its accommodation block. There are also indoor swings, and a so-called dedicated festival area, comprising a renovated caravan to listen to music in, deck chairs and picnic benches. And, of course, study rooms – they are students after all.
“When we were first coming up with our concept and discussing what our sites needed, a slide was jokingly thrown into the mix by one of our directors,” says Sarah Storey, head of sales and marketing at True Student. “So when we were nailing down exactly what a site should look like we thought, why not? The slide has been a big hit with guests and visitors.”
iQ Shoreditch, meanwhile, boasts a cinema room and a lobby area that is reminiscent of nearby hipster hotels, with leather club chairs placed around a fireplace and taxidermy artwork, designed by celebrity interior designer Naomi Cleaver.
In return, the developers can charge premium rates: a Platinum suite at iQ Shoreditch costs £380 per week, or £16,340 for the academic year – on top of the £9,000 tuition fees for most universities in London. (For this term the suites are fully booked; overall iQ boasts a 98 per cent occupancy rate.)
The seventh-floor penthouse at True Glasgow costs £205 per week, far higher than the average for student halls in the city at £134. The UK average student rent is around £144 a week, according to Mystudenthalls.com. Many who are able to pay these higher rates are from abroad, with 93 per cent of iQ Shoreditch’s tenants international students.
A trend is for student accommodation providers to include more social areas, such as the low-lit dining room with luxury upholstered chairs at Eclipse in Cardiff, that is designed for students to host Come Dine With Me- style dinner parties in. At Ernest Place in Durham, there is a rooftop bar in which to sip cocktails – certainly a step up from the grotty common rooms with worn-out sofas of yesteryear. There’s also an emphasis on encouraging a sense of community and offering a higher level of pastoral care, says Dan Roberts, founder of Mystudenthalls. com. “This community-led approach means providers are focusing more on offering spaces and events that allow students to interact, learn and socialise with one another, helping them to thrive in their accommodation.” Storey says that the expectations of both students and their parents about where they will live are much higher than they used to be. “Younger people are increasingly experiencing the finer things in life, and they expect no less when looking for accommodation,” she says. “We need to appeal to the Instagram generation who are always looking for something cooler, newer, and with more wow-factor.”
Even without the headline-attracting gimmicks, many developers now have to include hotel-style flourishes as standard, such as Little Greene paint finishes. Hypnos, the mattress maker to The Goring, where the Duchess of Cambridge spent the night before her wedding, has even created a special version for student digs that are used in Duncreggan Student Village in Londonderry, Northern Ireland. There are Miele kitchen appliances in flats developed by Criterion Capital marketed to discerning students in central London.
Experiences matter, too. Much like a less-sordid version of freshers’ week, True Glasgow’s communal kitchen also offers complimentary cookery lessons for those who may miss home meals (as well as gin masterclasses).
The classes are part of what the company terms its Truelife initiative, which includes students getting a card and balloon stuck to their door on their birthday, and organised trips around the UK. iQ holds events to foster a community among their students.
Roberts agrees that while gimmicks might be the first thing you see, student accommodation providers are digging deeper. “Over the past few years, I’ve been pleased to see a much bigger emphasis placed on mental health and well-being for students,” he says. “This is all from designing spaces to include more natural light, outdoor spaces and quiet areas, through to providing on-site support staff, who offer pastoral care.”
A slide at True Glasgow, main; the cinema room, right, and a bedroom at iQ Shoreditch in London, below