Find out who lifted this year’s trophies when Property Week celebrated the sector’s winners, innovators and rising stars at a glittering ceremony in London last week.
The student accommodation sector came together last week for a gala dinner at the InterContinental Hotel next to The O2 in London, to celebrate the industry’s sterling work at the Student Accommodation Awards.
More than 800 guests were welcomed by Property Week editor Lem Bingley, who said the sector was full of “innovation, dedication and determination”. Comedian Suzi Ruffell entertained guests before kicking off the awards, which covered categories ranging from Climate Change Initiative and Social Impact Award to Rising Star and Unsung Hero, as well as Private Halls of Residence and University Halls of Residence.
Mark Allen and David Tymms were inducted into Property Week’s Hall of Fame. Allen played a leading role in turning UPP into a major student accommodation player, while Tymms has become an influential figure in the sector for his work at iQ Student Accommodation and others. Over the next 16 pages, we reveal this year’s award winners.
- Neil Armstrong - Partner, joint head of student property, Knight Frank
- Michelle Beaumont - Partner, Irwin Mitchell
- Louise Bena - Chief marketing officer, Student Crowd
- Melissa Browne - Deputy director, commercial services and estates, University of Kent
- Deepa Deb - Partner, head of UK real estate, Dentons UK & Middle East
- Bruce Girdlestone - Sales and marketing director, Glide
- Phillip Hillman - Chairman, living capital markets, JLL
- Allan Hilton - Chief executive, Affordable Accommodation 4 Students
- Amina Hofri - Head of applicant experience and conversion, King’s College London
- Andrew Howarth - Director of residential services, University of London
- Paul Humphreys - Chief executive, Student Crowd
- Paddy Jackman - Director of University Partnerships, Campus Living Villages UK
- Paloma Lisboa - Director of operations, King’s College London
- Martina Pardo - Founder and director, A Designer at Heart
- Mark Quigley - Managing director, Beaufort Capital
- Jenny Shaw - HE external engagement director, Unite Students
- Richard Skeels - Chief executive, CRM Students
- Einita Suman - Director of accommodation and operations, University of Birmingham
- Richard Ward - Head of research, StuRents
- Neil Young - Investment chair, Young Group
- Lem Bingley - Editor, Property Week
Agency of the year - sponsored by Abodus
Winner - JLL
JLL’s student team has participated in some of the largest recent purpose-built student accommodation deals, including working on GIC and Greystar’s bid for Student Roost. The team claims to have worked on 75% of all agent-represented student deals in the UK in the past year, worth £3.8bn in buy-side transactions and £1.2bn on the sell side.
Its notable deals include selling a 347-bed PBSA scheme in West Hampstead, London, and the sale of a client’s 2,171-bed PBSA portfolio.
JLL said its PBSA team demonstrated deep knowledge of its market and ran a highly competitive operation.
The judges said JLL showed “good depth to its offering” and demonstrated an ability to “exceed the expectations of its clients and manage complex transactions with ease”.
Shortlist: Harris Associates | Knight Frank | Savills Student Accommodation | WAU
Highly commended: The Property Marketing Strategists
Climate crisis initiative - sponsored by Shoosmiths
Winner - Ecosync
EcoSync uses data and artificial intelligence to create a carbon footprint of student accommodation buildings, providing room-by-room control to heat occupied rooms to optimal temperature.
With a wide range of student nationalities, preferred ‘comfort’ temperatures within accommodation vary significantly.
EcoSync’s data shows that student accommodation buildings are empty 70% of the time, and up to 60% of energy is wasted through outdated boiler control systems and inflexible building management systems.
To solve these challenges, EcoSync created an energy management system that allowed building managers to set precise, room-by-room temperature schedules. In-room QR codes give students instant access to a simple mobile interface to fine-tune temperature.
The firm’s second-generation product, launched in autumn 2021, has reduced heating-related carbon emissions by 28% to 57% across a number of buildings.
The judges said: “EcoSync demonstrated an impact on the student living experience while lowering carbon emissions across a number of buildings.”
Shortlist: David Phillips Furniture | Host | Outpost Management & Tide Construction | UPP | Yugo
Winner - UPP
Since they started working together a decade ago, UPP and the University of Exeter have developed more than 4,000 rooms.
East Park Phase 2 at the university’s Streatham Campus is their latest joint venture. The 578-room project features innovative design and a sustainability-first approach that puts mental and physical wellbeing at its heart, achieved by engaging with the university, students and the wider community.
The campus includes a natural habitat comprising woodland, lakes, gardens and open spaces in keeping with the local area. Residences are laid out in three terraces, with a green spine to connect all levels.
The design incorporates features that combat isolation, including bookable social spaces for group activities and larger kitchen and dining areas.
The judges praised “a consortium approach” and how the PBSA developer and university worked together from the very start to ensure that the buildings being developed “fully addressed the institution’s and students’ needs”.
Shortlist: EQUANS, Equitix and the University of Leicester | Henry Riley | Homes for Students | Kexgill Group | Kinetic Software | LOFT
Highly commended: Sodexo and Northumbria University
Developer of the year - sponsored by Yardi
Winner - Nido Student
Having developed, managed and operated student accommodation across the UK and Europe for more than a decade, developer Nido Student saw unprecedented growth last year. As a result, it now operates PBSA assets with 7,824 beds internationally, with more than 3,000 beds in the pipeline.
In May, Nido announced a partnership with investment manager Nuveen Real Estate to open and operate its first PBSA scheme in Nido Bryggen in Copenhagen, Denmark.
In one of the greenest cities in the world, Nido worked closely with architect Arkitema and interior designer A Designer at Heart to create 443 modern and comfortable student rooms, communal spaces and facilities including multi-tiered roof terraces.
Only recycled, reclaimed, biodegradable, sustainable and natural materials were used in the development.
The judges said: “Nido has delivered excellent builds for the sector this year and truly focused on its commitment to ESG. Its passion shows through the end product. It is clear students are involved and considered in every part of the design.”
Shortlist: Blacklight | Bricks Group | CA Ventures | Iconinc | Maven Capital Partners | Tide Construction | Torsion Developments | Vita Group | Watkin Jones
Health & wellbeing initiative - sponsored by Student Crown
Winner - Student Roost
Over the past year, Student Roost has further strengthened its student health and wellbeing support, having recognised that the effects of the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis are adding to existing pressures on students.
In addition to social spaces and events to encourage friendships and communities, a wellbeing strategy has been created that focuses on protecting residents.
This approach is supported by building strong partnerships with universities, public sector organisations and charities.
Over the past year, Student Roost has produced policies and operational standards on antisocial behaviour, wellbeing and accidents/incidents.
The firm offers 24/7 customer service teams and 40 trained mental health first-aiders, as well as a presence on social media channels to connect and engage with residents.
“It is clear that wellbeing is a central core to Student Roost’s strategy,” the judges said. “The link to universities is particularly impressive.”
Shortlist: Abodus Student Living | CRM Students | Fresh | FutureLets, Coventry University | Host | Nido Student | Nurtur Student Living | SugarCube | True Student | Study Inn | Yugo | aparto | Iconinc
Highly commended: King’s College London
Innovation award - sponsored by CRM Students
Winner - Tide Construction and Vision Modular Systems
As the construction industry seeks ways to reduce waste and carbon emissions, Tide Construction’s approach of using volumetric modular systems manufactured off site is gaining traction.
The firm, which recently completed the world’s tallest modular PBSA scheme in Lewisham, south-east London, says its modules produce 41% to 45% fewer carbon dioxide emissions than traditional methods of building student living schemes.
A study by University of Cambridge and Edinburgh Napier University academics found that Tide sites at Gants Hill in London and George Street, Croydon, saved 28,000 tonnes of embodied carbon emissions – the equivalent of the carbon dioxide absorbed by 1.3 million trees in a year.
Using modular construction, projects are far quicker to build than conventional schemes, often resulting in a 50% to 60% saving in construction time, so cutting costs.
The judges called the approach “a great way to build faster and more sustainably”.
Shortlist: HeyHub | Lavanda | LifeProven ESG Property Company | Spaceflow | Spike Global | StuRents | Student Living by Sodexo | StudentLife Furniture | WAU
International operator of the year - sponsored by ASK4
Winner - Student Depot
Student Depot, the largest PBSA developer and operator in Poland, has responded rapidly to challenges created by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine.
The company runs six buildings and has six developments in its pipeline, offering a total of 5,570 beds. It uses its operational knowledge and customer feedback to design schemes featuring indoor and outdoor gyms, TV/cinema rooms, games rooms and music areas.
Having responded to the Covid-19 pandemic with high standards of sanitary procedures, Student Depot this year addressed the challenges posed by the war in neighbouring Ukraine. Student Depot employees were trained by a psychologist
in how to talk to people affected by war trauma and all Ukrainian students had the opportunity to host family and friends for as long as needed.
Student Depot also offered discounts on rents and transferred deposits to the rent account, so customers could allocate funds to other needs.
The judges described Student Depot’s response to Covid-19 and the war in Ukraine as “impressive”.
Shortlist: aparto | CRM Students | Fresh | Londonist DMC | Nido Student | Novel Student | University Living | Yugo
Investor of the year - sponsored by Irwin Mitchell
Winner - Kexgill Group
‘If we can’t make this fun, we should stop doing it’ is the motto of Kexgill Group, an investment firm that self-manages the majority of its assets in the UK.
The firm has recently moved to an ethical, community-focused approach exemplified by its Liverpool development USP, which, when refurbished, will feature rare three-bed clusters.
Although Kexgill’s net asset value has increased by 99% in the past seven years, the firm said it was “motivated about the student experience, not just by spreadsheet yield”, embracing the lower-income international postgraduate market.
It has developed links to local churches, arranged airport transfers, offered free wifi in selected outside zones, developed communal herb gardens and undertaken an art trial, leading to an on-campus gallery.
The judges said: “Kexgill has a deep understanding of the student market and, in particular, the needs of different groups of students.”
Shortlist: Aldermore Bank | Curation Capital | EQT Exeter | Equitix | Global Student Accommodation | Harrison Street
Legal/Professional team - student property
Winner - Shoosmiths
The specialist student team at law firm Shoosmiths is part of the firm’s living sector group, which has this year advised on several significant PBSA deals. These helped to boost the firm’s living sector-specific revenues by 39% compared with the previous year.
As well as having a culture which promotes diversity, the firm has been involved in a variety of thought-leadership activity, leading on issues such as urban regeneration, planning and sustainability.
Head of student accommodation Daniel Halstead leads the practice and advised AIB Group on its funding of the acquisition of a 999-bedroom PBSA development for Aura in Liverpool. Other clients include Vita Group, Watkin Jones and Locate Developments.
The judges lauded Shoosmiths for having a “highly successful year” for its extensive client list that includes “many of the leading PBSA providers”.
Shortlist: Addleshaw Goddard | CBRE | Curtins | Fieldfisher | Operis | Pinsent Masons | QMPF
Highly commended: Knight Frank
Operator of the year - sponsored by ASK4
Winner - Unite Students
Unite Students is the UK’s largest owner and operator of purpose-built student accommodation, housing 74,000 students. During the pandemic, it provided a range of financial support to students affected by closures and lockdowns.
Students not living in their accommodation were able to apply for a 10-week rental discount and four-week complimentary tenancy extension during summer 2021. This contributed towards more than £100m in financial support.
The firm also shone a spotlight on hidden disadvantage and inequality throughout student accommodation in the UK, in its ‘Living Black at University’ report, which was published in February.
In response to the findings, the company founded the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University, which brings together national and professional bodies and charities to take action on key recommendations.
“Unite has also been the only PBSA operator contributing to the Suicide Prevention Strategy,” noted the judges.
Shortlist: Abodus Student Living | CODE Student Accommodation | CRM Students | iQ Student Accommodation | Iconinc | Mansion Student | Nido Student | Student Roost | Study Inn | Torsion Students | True Student | Yugo
Highly commended: Fresh
Private halls of residence award - sponsored by Torsion Group
Winner - Student Roost, Hollis Croft, Sheffield
Opened in 2019, Student Roost’s flagship scheme, Hollis Croft in the heart of Sheffield, has proved a huge success story.
The site is split across two main buildings and includes a 19-storey tower comprising flats, studios and apartments. Residents are also offered the ability to tweak usage of a room over time.
Hollis Croft boasts a cinema, karaoke rooms and a hosting kitchen, designed to encourage residents to cook and eat together in larger groups. The 24/7 on-site team uses these spaces to run a wide range of inclusive events, while The Neighbourhood App helps residents to connect with each other.
The development offers flexible payment options and payment plans on request, having provided Covid-19 rent discounts during lockdowns in 2019-20 and 2020-21.
The judges called Hollis Croft “impressive” and praised the development’s luxurious communal areas, outdoor courtyard, gym and wellbeing features such as mental health first-aiders.
Shortlist: Abodus Student Living – The Elements, Sheffield Hallam | Ashcourt Student Accommodation – Ashcourt, University of Hull BigCity – BigCity Porto Asprela | Fresh – Woodside House, Glasgow | Glenn Howells Architects – Straits Village, Nottingham Trent University | Host – Southampton Crossings, Southampton Solent University | Iconinc | Novel Student – Silk Mill, Edinburgh | Vega Student Living | True Student – True Liverpool | Yugo – Clifford House, University of Exeter
Rising star - sponsored by Yugo
Winner - Lydia Jones, chief executive, Housemates
Twenty-three-year-old founder and chief executive Lydia Jones launched Housemates in 2019 after experiencing problems finding and booking student accommodation.
The student accommodation website now helps students find accommodation across 50 cities and is expanding globally. It aims be a cheap and low-risk way to fill a bed compared with other platforms.
The goal is to benefit the student, eliminating uncertainty from the process, and to allow providers to fill beds faster and at a lower cost.
When the student accommodation market stalled during the pandemic, Jones continued to improve the product by working closely with the industry and through bringing on board staff members from large tech firms and leading PBSA providers.
“Lydia showed tenacity to get the platform set up and has grown it impressively,” said the judges.
Shortlist: Matt Walker, executive vice-president, CA Ventures | Michael Haverty, founding partner, Curation Capital | Mo Ali, head of new business engagement, Fresh | Georgia Chambers, head of marketing, Harris Associates | Polly Vodenicharova, digital marketing manager, Homes for Students | Jack Darragh, assistant accommodation manager, Sodexo | Richard Ward, head of research, StuRents | Lauren O’Neill, assistant residence manager, Yugo
Social impact initiative - sponsored by StuRents
Winner - The Unite Foundation
The Unite Foundation, an independent charity set up by PBSA owner and operator Unite Students, provides support to students who have been in care or are estranged from their parents. Such students often face considerable barriers to accessing and completing university.
In its first decade, the foundation has invested £13m and supported 500 estranged and care-experienced young people to go to university.
The scholarship scheme offers free accommodation for up to three years of study, plus wrap-around support such as a welcome pack on arrival, a named contact, a student-led online community and ringfenced work experience placements. Crucially, the accommodation is available 365 days a year.
The foundation also developed a student-led community for all care-experienced and estranged students, co-created with students themselves.
According to the judges, the foundation “has consistently supported students on their educational journey”.
Shortlist: Novel Student VS CA Ventures | Kexgill Group
University halls of residence award - sponsored by Glide
Winner - Cryfield Village, University of Warwick, R H Partnership Architects
Designed by R H Partnership Architects following a survey of more than 2,000 students, the Cryfield Village development at the University of Warwick offers a variety of accommodation types, rental rates and social groupings, helping to foster a more diverse and equitable community.
The project comprises a village of 14 buildings on the university’s first brownfield development site, including 828 student rooms, six apartments and three houses for wardens, along with a central social hub – the Village Hall.
Every aspect of the design has been considered to create a cohesive community under the slogan ‘Living, Learning, Together’. This is reflected in its architecture, interiors, furniture, branding and wayfinding, even the design of duvet covers.
By flexing the brief and delivering rooms smaller than previous University of Warwick standards, students have gained valuable space for community interaction, all through the simple reshaping of physical space.
The judges described Cryfield Village as “an outstanding development”.
Shortlist: FutureLets, Coventry University | East Park Phase 2, University of Exeter, UPP
University team of the year - sponsored by Pinsent Masons
Winner - Residential services, University of London
At the University of London’s eight intercollegiate halls, which house 3,500 students from 36 institutions, great effort has been made to achieve high levels of student satisfaction and create inclusive, supportive communities.
Initiatives introduced include: a website; an accommodation management system; a clean kitchen competition; and a private housing fair, bringing together students, housing advisers and exhibitors to help students plan their next year’s accommodation.
Residential life and health and wellbeing events were introduced during the year, including marking cultural celebrations such as Diwali, the Lunar New Year and awareness days such as University Mental Health Day.
Student satisfaction surveys showed that within six weeks of arriving, 79.1% felt they belonged in their hall community and 81.8% said they’d recommend their halls to others.
“The stand-out elements of this entry are the use of data to back up claims, and the strong and evidenced response to inclusion and sustainability,” the judges said.
Shortlist: FutureLets, Coventry University | Student Living, University of Birmingham
Unsung hero of the year - sponsored by Walsh
Winner - Louise Evans, True Student
Louise Evans, a housekeeper at True Student’s Birmingham development, does extraordinary things for others without ever seeking credit.
From sewing buttons on to guests’ clothes, to providing food hygiene advice, to personally caring for individuals, Evans has done it all, according to colleagues and students.
She joined the True Student team in August 2020, having worked in the hotel industry for many years. Her colleagues say her passion for exceptional guest service and bubbly personality set her apart from many of her peers.
Having an autistic daughter means Evans understands the importance of effective communication with every student, whatever their needs or circumstances.
The judges said: “We can often forget how vulnerable our residents are and having a member of staff that has the heart of a teacher is invaluable – for the residents and her fellow colleagues.”
Shortlist: Danielle Lancaster, sales executive, CODE student accommodation | Hannah Blackford, general manager, Fresh | Trevor Bailey, maintenance operative, Kexgill Group | Ian Roopnarine, maintenance operative, Canto Court | Mary Chan, customer service adviser, Student Roost | Oliver Fairey, assistant residence manager, Yugo
Hall of fame - sponsored by Investec
David Tymms worked for specialist provider iQ Student Accommodation for 14 years until his retirement last month. He initially held the role of chief operating officer, before going on to become commercial director at the firm, which owns and operates 76 sites across 29 UK towns and cities.
He joined iQ after a long career in the student sector that included stints at universities including the London School of Economics and the University of Central Lancashire, before moving into the private sector.
Tymms chairs the British Property Federation’s Student Accommodation committee and under his leadership, its influence and impact has grown significantly. Since retiring, Tymms has decided to fulfil a lifelong ambition by embarking on a trip around the world.
Mark Allen helped build UPP into a major provider of campus accommodation, which now has well over 30,000 beds under its management.
He moved to the private sector following successful stints at the University of Greenwich and Goldsmiths, University of London, before retiring from UPP in 2017. It is estimated he has been involved with the development of more than 50,000 rooms during his career.
Since his retirement, Allen has remained active in the student sector by becoming an independent member of the University of Roehampton’s governing council, and a non-executive of both higher education review website StudentCrowd and student accommodation lettings app SPCE.