Wanted: Affordable student housing options in Dubai

Uninest in Dubailand is the UAE’s first non-university-owned student accommodation, housing 424 beds.
Uninest in Dubailand is the UAE's first non-university-owned student accommodation, housing 424 beds.

Dubai - Purpose-built student accommodation is relatively new concept here, and the demand for student accommodation in the past has been low, but according to a recent 'GCC Education Industry Report' by Alpen Capital earlier this year, student numbers in schools and universities is projected to grow by 4.1 per cent annually, by 2020.



By Kelly Clarke

Published: Sat 10 Sep 2016, 10:00 PM

Last updated: Sun 11 Sep 2016, 3:55 PM

According to the latest figures from the Knowledge and Human Development Authority (KHDA), there are 26 private higher education institutions in Dubai hosting more than 26,000 students. But are students being offered enough in regards to housing opportunities here?
According to the students Khaleej Times spoke to, yes. However, with purpose-built student accommodation a relatively new concept here, the need for more is now.     
In the past, the demand for student accommodation has been low, but according to a recent 'GCC Education Industry Report' by Alpen Capital earlier this year, student numbers in schools and universities is projected to grow by 4.1 per cent annually, by 2020.
With the UAE government's focus on higher education, tertiary education is expected to be one of the fastest growing areas in the sector. As such, an influx of overseas students will be taking up residence in the UAE, upping the need for more student housing options.
At present, only a handful of branch campuses and local universities in Dubai offer accommodation on campus.
Other universities opt to rent bulk apartments in private residential areas, and for the remaining institutions, private rental arrangements are handled between the student and the rental agent, meaning the onus is solely on the student.
With the UAE's strict rental laws and payment requirements, living alone is not always feasible. As a result, the limited options for overseas students could prove to be a bugbear for many.
An Al Barsha-based Real Estate agent (who wished to remain anonymous) said renting privately to students isn't easy. "Students want to share a flat and landlords are hesitant to take them on because of this. That they are usually on little to no income also plays a part."
In his eight years in Dubai, he has never had to house a student here, but said it would "make more sense for universities themselves to accommodate these requests", to avoid any legality issues around sub-letting apartments.
Speaking to Khaleej Times, a spokesperson from Rochester Institute of Technology Dubai (RIT Dubai) said Dubai's recent growth spurt in the sector means "student housing hasn't had a chance to catch up".
RIT Dubai just added two brand new student accommodations in Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO). Offering 210 beds in single, shared, or studio formats, prices range from Dh24,000 to Dh45,000 for one academic period, including round-trip transportation to the university campus.
Amity University Dubai is another campus taking note of the rise in student housing demand. This year, it added new housing options and students can expect to pay between Dh25,000 to Dh40,000 for varied occupancy.
Not all universities are able to or willing to invest in the housing costs involved, but this needs to change.
With the UAE attracting students from all corners of the world, including India, Egypt, Europe, Canada and the US, it's time to close the gap between growing student numbers and shortages in student housing.
UAE's first private-run student accommodation
Turns out, there are innovative solutions coming up to cater to the demand for student housing in the UAE.
Bobbi Hartshorne, the Strategic Partnerships Manager at Global Student Accommodation (GSA) recently helped introduce Uninest to Dubai - the UAE's first non-university-owned student accommodation, housing 424 beds.
Uninest is the platinum partner for three universities in Dubai, and has proposals from another 10 universities in the pipeline.
"Acommodation has never been a reassurance for parents of students in the UAE, but we are offering that. One university just housed 17 of its students with us because they simply didn't have the space on campus," Hartshorne said.
With around 60,000 students across Dubai's public and private universities, she told Khaleej Times this number could grow to 150,000 by 2020.
"The market is very young here; it's about 23 years old but it has really gained momentum in the last 5-8 years," she added.
Uninest opened in February and currently has 170 students residing at its accommodation, located in Dubailand near Sky Courts Towers. It expects to reach capacity by year three.
As far as demographics go, Hartshorne said it houses a huge diversity of nationalities, but the biggest student groups are from the Indian subcontinent, mainland Africa, the Middle East, and South East Asia, respectively.
kelly@khaleejtimes.com
 
 


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