Collegiate is focused on providing students with optimum choice in the student housing market.
Collegiate AC Sponsored Feature
It is often said that a key driver of the student accommodation sector is a lack of beds, but for Heriberto Cuanalo, chief executive of operator Collegiate AC, this is something of a misnomer.
“Advisers often say the market is undersupplied,” he says. “But that over-simplifies the situation. Technically there is no undersupply - every market, every city is already ‘fully supplied’ as students are staying somewhere. The problem is there is insufficient access to purpose-built residences, and not an optimum student choice.”
For Cuanalo, understanding this - and as a result focusing on providing students with a better choice - lies at the heart of Collegiate’s approach to the market. Cuanalo, who has operated in the student sector for 12 years, first with Savills and then CRM, has worked on more than 500 student accommodation projects and set up Collegiate five years ago in order to operate and help deliver a higher-quality product to the market.
“The student accommodation world has changed. It has become a major investment sector, but alongside that students are also demanding better choices as supply expands. In my mind there is too often a misalignment between quality and price,” he says. “What we aim to offer is a better choice - a product above the mainstream. But this is not about just doing luxury product - we’re rarely the most expensive. What it is about is quality and value. We always aim to be the highest quality for the price.”
As well as being an operator, Collegiate also provides consultancy services to universities and developers. The company has advised on more than 20,000 beds, including a 3,000-bed project for the University of Hertfordshire, 1,150 beds for the University of Edinburgh and 1,367 beds for the University of Salford. But the firm’s primary role is as an operating partner of student accommodation. Collegiate currently operates 35 student residences and has a pipeline of a further 20,000 beds coming on line in the next few years. It has formed a number of strategic partnerships with some of the sector’s most innovative players, including Fusion Students and Empiric Student Property, as well as a select number of key investors and developers.
What sets Collegiate apart from its rivals is its sophisticated approach to design and its resolute focus on quality, which it backs up with a higher level of management resourcing. “I had learnt so much about design and development over my career and I wanted Collegiate to focus on developing a properly focused product that addressed a long-term market need,” Cuanalo explains. “What we know more than any other agent is how you can get more value out of a development to deliver higher-quality properties - and ultimately that makes our job of operating them much easier and ensures we achieve success for our clients.”
Collegiate only works on development-led projects and aims to get involved with the project as early as possible in order to influence the specification and layout of the rooms. “We’ve been through the learning curve and can save our clients the pain of making mistakes. We can also help them innovate safely,” says Cuanalo. “We can make a real difference to development-led projects because we understand the sophisticated level of detail required to provide the optimum-quality product for the price point it aims to achieve.”
Cuanalo says input at the earliest stage possible also ensures Collegiate is able to give its products the distinctive Collegiate quality stamp. “We are presenting a consumer brand portfolio and want our clients’ developments to have a consistently high quality that consumers can depend on - so we generally won’t take products that have already been built unless our current clients buy them,” he says. “That is how we provide students with an optimum choice - and they deserve it.”