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Student accommodation: do reviews matter to students?

Paul Humphreys, Founder and CEO of StudentCrowd, looks at whether reviews impact students' decisions about where to live

Posted by Jo Golding | October 04, 2018 | People, policy, politics, money

Designed to cover the key funding and finance developments in the student accommodation sector, Property Week’s 11th annual Student Accommodation Conference is the key live information source for developers, providers and investors making student living a reality, as well as the universities and research institutions looking to attract students.

As part of the run-up to the 2018 conference, taking place at the InterContinental London - The O2 on 12 December 2018, Property Week has asked Paul Humphreys, Founder and CEO of StudentCrowd, to look at how important reviews are in impacting student decision-making about where to live. Just how much do reviews matter to students?

We can start to answer this question using the biggest data source on earth. Type the name of a student property into Google, and we find 'reviews' is often the most popular search phrase. This proves that students are searching for reviews on accommodation, but it does not indicate whether reviews impact student decision-making.

Do reviews matter to students?

UCAS provides the most specific data source for student decision-making. In 2017, UCAS asked students to rank the most important factors in ‘reply’ decisions. There were 35 factors to choose from - 'student reviews of the university' was ranked #3 most important and 'the quality of university accommodation' #9:

#3 “Student reviews of the university”

Observing the top two factors, it’s clear that the main priority for students is to choose a university which will be a good fit academically. The next most important factor to be considered is 'Student reviews of the university'. We found that students read reviews to answer one burning question - 'will I belong at this university?'.

It is not too much of a stretch to apply this to student accommodation reviews - 'will I belong in this hall?'. The most accessible way to find this answer is to read reviews on an independent platform.

#9 “The quality of university accommodation”

Given that the #10 most important factor is 'the university's position in league tables', it is impressive to see that university accommodation plays such a major role in student choice.

Who can truly measure the quality of university accommodation? It has to be students. It’s the same reason we read reviews on TripAdvisor or Amazon. Peer reviews offer students a first-hand account of living in student accommodation.

Student accommodation review platforms

Review platforms can be found by searching in Google for the following phrase: '{insert hall name} reviews'.

This goes for university-managed halls such as Crown Place in Liverpool and privately-managed halls such as Sheffield 3Facebook and Google, two of the largest technology companies in the world, facilitate student accommodation reviews.

And there’s a third platform too, StudentCrowd. Back in 2015, we started StudentCrowd with the premise that ‘reviews matter to students’. Since then, we’ve grown the platform to rank #1 in Google for virtually every student property in the UK for the phrase '{hall name} reviews'.

Clearly, I’m not in a position to give an unbiased appraisal! However, I can provide some insight into how the platforms handle student accommodation reviews in different ways.

Review criteria

Both Google and Facebook, provide a single 5-star rating with a text field. On StudentCrowd, there are seven review criteria with a text field:

●      Value for money

●      Location

●      Hall management

●      Cleaning

●      Social spaces

●      Social experience

●      Internet / Wifi

Full hall review form

Replying to reviews

Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review analysed thousands of TripAdvisor reviews. The research is packed with insight, which indicates the importance of replying to reviews: “Approximately one-third of the hotels we studied increased their rounded ratings by half a star or more within six months of their first management response.”

Full Harvard Business Review article

StudentCrowd is the only student accommodation platform with the ability to reply to reviews.

We have positioned StudentCrowd to be the review partner for student accommodation providers. If you’d like to get in touch, email enquiries@studentcrowd.com.

To hear more about this topic and other aspects of investing in and operating student housing, join Paul Humphreys and key players from the student accommodation sector in London on 12 December at the Student Accommodation Conference and Awards.

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