How 'the new normal' will look at Cardiff's universities

How 'the new normal' will look at Cardiff's universities

Tamara Price, Lettings Manager at CPS Homes in CardiffIn our recent landlords' rental market update, we told you how Cardiff's three universities had all announced they will take a blended learning approach to the upcoming academic year, meaning courses will be delivered partly on campus and partly online.

The universities have now released further information on what students can expect for the 2020/2021 year, which includes;

  • A collective aim for all courses to feature at least some on-campus learning, though some only go as far as to promise "face-to-face teaching", which we believe could still mean it’s via Teams or Zoom. It appears the vast majority of learning – at least in the first-term – will be delivered online. We've been told that School of Journalism students will get one hour’s contact time per week during the first term, which is hardly enough to warrant basing themselves close to campus.
  • One-way buildings, face coverings to be worn at all times and no large lectures.
  • Within university-owned accommodation, i.e. halls of residence, a requirement to be socially distant from those you don't live with.
  • Libraries closed for browsing, but "study space" booking slots available.
  • The highly popular freshers' fairs, where students are given freebies and encouraged to sign up to all sorts of deals, societies and clubs, are being replaced by ticket-only, socially distant "microfairs" and virtual meet-and-greets.  All nights out will be table-only affairs, meaning no dancefloors.
  • Most British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) team sports between institutions postponed until January 2021.
  • The majority of non-teaching staff continuing to work from home throughout the year.

Will university life ever return to its pre-COVID ways?

We'll overcome the pandemic sooner or later, but it has forced us into embracing many new ways and technologies that we’re sure to take forward into post-COVID times, such as working from home, conducting meetings virtually and ordering the weekly 'big shop' online.

Might we see universities pick out their own ‘best bits’ from what is going to be an unconventional year ahead and continue to implement them for years to come? We’ve already heard from a number of students who like the idea of accessing lecture content at a time of their choosing, which surely won't go unnoticed by universities.

There's an argument to say campuses never need to return to the same levels of footfall they once had. Some will dispute that, but you only have to look at how the internet has mopped up so many other sectors and industries in recent times. Why won't university life succumb to online reliance next?

If it does, then what does it mean for student housing?

The truth is, nobody knows what university life will look post-pandemic, not even the universities themselves. Much like they did for this coming year, we suspect they will leave it until very close to the start of the 2021/2022 term before releasing details.

What we do know for certain is that the next 12 months are set to be very different for universities, students, landlords and letting agents alike.

Lettings is resilient: adapt and ride the wave

Thankfully, the lettings market is incredibly resilient and capable of resisting a recession as long as landlords are prepared to adapt.

For now, that means making sure properties are looking at their absolute best within photos and videos because in-person viewings will be limited for the foreseeable future. If numbers do drop by 5-10%, don't be the one of the few that go empty.

Read more on how we see student lettings playing out in the next 12 months.

18 September 2020


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