ANU seeks private investment in student accommodation

The ANU is calling for expressions of interest from investors in several student residences, including Ursula Hall. Photo: Karleen Minney Students Davidson Ng and Sarah-Jane Collum were some of the first students to stay in the Laurus wing of Ursula Hall. Photo: Karleen Minney

People will be able to invest in Graduate House, at the Australian National University. Photo: Belinda Pratten

The Australian National University is seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment to overhaul its student accommodation.

The ANU will on Thursday morning call for expressions of interest from investors in nine ANU residences: the new SA5 building currently under construction, Burton & Garran Hall, Graduate House, Toad Hall, Ursula Hall, Davey Lodge, Lena Karmel Lodge, Kinloch Lodge and Warrumbul Lodge.

In return for their capital, investors would receive a 30-year financial concession, or lease arrangement, over the student accommodation.

They would also receive a guaranteed return on investments based on student numbers.

But the deal will include an agreement to build an estimated additional 1500 rooms to cater for unmet demand.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Brian Schmidt said the decision to open the market to private investment would enable the ANU to invest its own money in other academic and research priorities.

The move followed extensive consultations and a survey of 4800 residential students in 2015. It found a pressing need to upgrade existing facilities and build more student accommodation.

Student accommodation is seen as an increasingly lucrative investment opportunity, particularly in the United Kingdom and United States.

The ANU and the University of Canberra have already outsourced some of their student accommodation costs to private developers through the UniLodge model – with the ANU call for private investment not having any impact on the existing UniLodge.

But Professor Schmidt stressed the deal would not lead to the full privatisation of accommodation as the ANU would continue to maintain control of management and rental rates.

“Improving and providing more student accommodation on campus is one of the university’s highest priorities,” Professor Schmidt said.

“Students have told us what is important to them, and we are exploring outside interest with these concerns front of mind.

“We cannot meet demand for accommodation on campus at the moment, and we estimate more than 1500 students who wanted to live on campus in 2016 were not able to be accommodated.”

About 5000 students currently live in student accommodation – 3760 of them in the nine residences slated for the investment deal.

Bruce Hall and Fenner Hall have been excluded from the current discussions with investors as the university is simultaneously designing a major redevelopment of Bruce Hall, intended to open in 2018.

Fenner Hall, which is off the main campus, will be relocated to the new SA5 accommodation development, intended to open at the beginning of 2018. The ANU has not yet determined what it will do with the existing Fenner Hall site on Northbourne Avenue.

Professor Schmidt said the university would remain responsible for student admissions to residences, and for all matters related to pastoral care, student safety and security.

The ANU would also include conditions that room rental increases were limited to the consumer price index and maintained at or below 75 per cent of market rates.

It would continue to be responsible for IT access and infrastructure, and prescribe strict maintenance standards.

“Feedback we have from students and residential alumni tell us that pastoral care, the unique culture of each residence, safety and security, cost and standard of accommodation are all critical and need to be guaranteed,” Professor Schmidt said.

ANU has appointed Flagstaff Partners as advisers for the process. Investment proposals will close on May 27.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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