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Birmingham – it’s the city to get smart

Jan 7, 2018 | News | 0 comments

They say that education is important. Nowhere does it seem to ring more true than in Birmingham.

Education is big in Birmingham – and we are not talking about its status in the city’s social fabric (although it is held in high standing), but in economic terms. Education, specifically, university education, is big business in Birmingham.

The city is currently home to five universities – Aston University, Birmingham City University, University of Birmingham, Newman University, and University College Birmingham, all of which are well-regarded institutions that occupy top spots in international rankings. Considering Birmingham’s population of just slightly over one million, this number of tertiary institutions is undoubtedly disproportionately large compared to other major cities.

The native population alone wouldn’t fill all of those vacancies, of course. Occupying seats in the lecture halls are students from other parts of the UK, as well as all over the world. In a census taken by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) in 2014, the universities in Birmingham collectively employed over 10,000 people, a number which is likely to be higher now, while the city’s student population today numbers 75,000 strong. Birmingham is currently the second largest higher education hub in the UK, ranking only behind London.

These figures look set to go up even further. In the ambitious Big City Plan unveiled in 2010 detailing regeneration plans for Birmingham, the city’s Eastside, an area east of and immediately adjacent to the city core was identified as an emerging knowledge hub. Already occupied by the 22-acre Birmingham Science Park Aston, the 40-acre Aston University campus, as well as Birmingham City University’s new campus with its 5,000 students, the area is in good stead for becoming a base for technology and knowledge-based businesses. It doesn’t hurt that the neighbourhood will also host a new station for the much talked-about High Speed 2 (HS2) in the future.

Capitalising on the new population and business interests, its various knowledge-based institutions will bring, Eastside has been earmarked in the Big City Plan as an expansion of the city core. Transport infrastructure and connectivity will be boosted with multiple routes from the HS2 station to adjacent neighbourhoods as well as to the city center. A new station square will be built, fed by several pedestrian routes that will disperse foot traffic to various parts of the Eastside.

With such a significant student population and impetus for growth in the education sector, it is not difficult to imagine that the buy-to-let (BTL) market in Birmingham is a lucrative one. Developers, from the UK and overseas, have already identified its potential, and many have staked their claims on prime spots in the city center with projects building strong interest among local, national and international BTL investors.

One such developer is Hong Kong-based company Top Capital Group with its three residential developments in Birmingham, The Axium, Arden Gate, and Bishopsgate Street. The former two developments sit on prime real estate within the core city center and walking distance from New Street Station, the rail station that, in the future, will have convenient connections to the Eastside area and its universities. These projects feature luxury one- and two-bedroom apartments suitable for professionals working in the city centre as well as student tenants looking for quality city centre living.

Although Eastside near the city’s core may see the highest density of tertiary institutions and other knowledge-based businesses, the area isn’t Birmingham’s only intellectual hub. Slightly further away from the city center to the city’s southwest is another significant student population courtesy of the University of Birmingham. Catering to the student population here is Top Capital Group’s Bishopsgate Street, exclusively dedicated to students, but close to the core city centre, a mere three metro stops away from the campuses.

The education industry has and always will be one of the most important contributors to Birmingham’s economy. As it continues to grow and expand, it is expected that the population of technology entrepreneurs, businesses, and students will increase proportionally with it. Demand for housing for those who work in this sector will continue to grow, as will the demand for student accommodation.

The potential in this segment of the market cannot be underestimated and the investors who get in early will stand to gain. As is always true in the property market, location matters. For those targeting this segment in Birmingham, developments in prime areas in the city core with connections to Eastside, as well as neighbourhoods near universities, such as the University of Birmingham in the southwest, would yield the highest potential returns.