Student property is becoming an increasingly popular option for those who wish to diversify their investment portfolio. However, choosing the correct part of the UK in which to invest can often prove to be somewhat of a minefield. Our guide to student property investment in Leicester aims to give you, the investor, an insight into why this part of the East Midlands is worthy of your consideration.
We’ll take a look at the local economy and its drivers, Leicester’s two universities, and what attracts students to come to the city from the rest of the UK and beyond. Let’s get started.
Leicester is located in the East Midlands of England and is regarded as one of the oldest cities in the country. Remnants of its past are everywhere and the city combines the old with the new possibly better than any other urban area in the UK. Leicester was once a military outpost for the Roman Empire and some of the ancient baths and pavements from that era are still evident today.
The city has a population of over 330,000 and is the largest unitary authority in the East Midlands. As the tenth largest city in the whole of the United Kingdom, Leicester boasts a healthy economy, and many of the country’s largest brands have their main offices here.
Getting to and from Leicester is made simple by its outstanding road and rail links. Leicester railway station runs a service to St Pancras International in the heart of London, home to the Eurostar. This gives the East Midlands city a connection to the rest of Europe and it is predicted that this link will continue to serve the area well in terms of growth.
Leicester’s position on the UK road network is also of huge benefit to the local economy. Situated close to centre of the M1 motorway, the city enjoys easy access to both the North and South of the country. International air travel is available from either East Midlands Airport or Birmingham Airport, which are 20 and 39 miles away from the city centre respectively.
Leicester enjoys a fairly diverse economic framework and it is the largest economy in the East Midlands. Sectors that are based here include retail, engineering, textiles, financial, and the food and drink industry. The global information service Experian recently estimated the city’s GVA (Gross Value Added) to be somewhere in the region of £15.3bn.
Household names such as British Telecom, British Gas, Jessops, Next, Santander, DHL, Topps Tiles, and Caterpillar all have a significant presence in Leicester, be it headquarters or regional offices. Analysts expect this list to grow as companies from further afield begin to make Leicester their base.
The engineering sector makes up a large part of the local economy and has done for some time. Many of the main engineering firms in the region offer excellent apprenticeship schemes, and the ties with the engineering departments of the two universities here are strong.
Another huge player is the food and drink industry. Companies such as Walkers, Ginsters (Samworth Brothers) and KP Snacks are present, as well as myriad of smaller, independent manufacturers. The city also has an excellent restaurant trade too.
Finance companies are prevalent as well, with Santander, RBS, Barclays, and HSBC all having offices in the city. Insurance provider, Aviva, also has an administrative unit here too.
Urban regeneration – Connecting Leicester
Leicester City Council has recently announced an ambitious regeneration plan that has been given the title Connecting Leicester. The aim of the project is to provide residents and visitors with a safe and family friendly city centre.
A key factor is the local council’s vision of reducing the roadways in the centre of the city, making the area more pedestrian-friendly. Businesses are hoping that the changes to the historic city increases footfall by bringing in new visitors, both day and night.
Having strong links between existing areas and new developments, such as the Waterside, is also a priority for all involved. Over £26 million is to be ploughed into the Waterside scheme, regenerating around 100 acres of currently unused or run-down riverside land.
City Mayor, Peter Soulsby, has also announced an Economic Action Plan that aims to unlock Leicester’s potential for growth over the coming years. Job creation, investment and support are all featured in the programme.
On the list of new developments in the city is a two-acre site situated around the junction of Welford Road, Belvoir Street and New Walk. Office space, new homes and a retail centre are all included in the plans for the former site of Leicester City Council’s offices.
The site, which will be developed by local firm Ingleby, includes two buildings which will be anywhere up to five storeys high and a tree-lined public area. Demolition of the old site has already taken place and the regeneration is expected to provide the area with 50,000 square feet of offices, homes and shops.
Should you invest in Leicester?
As well as its history and charm, Leicester has a lot to offer the modern investor. The city has an ever growing and diverse population that enjoys easy access to the rest of the UK and the continent, and future plans for the East Midlands region look set to increase its standing.
As we have already touched upon, Leicester has a wide and varied range of businesses situated within its boundaries and its three main business areas are home to many household names. New businesses are making their mark here too, with an increase in digital technology and creative companies choosing the city as their base. Growth in these areas is expected to continue.
Property investors in the city also look set for good times ahead as the economy of the region flourishes. As the city continues to attract both new and established companies to set up shop there, so the demand for housing will rise.
Further education in Leicester
Home to two impressive seats of learning, Leicester is widely regarded as one of the main university cities in the UK. In addition to the University of Leicester and De Montfort University, the city also boasts a fine business school too. Leicester Business School was featured by the Sunday Times in their list of the top 10 business schools throughout the UK.
Below we examine the two universities that Leicester has to offer in a little more detail:
De Montfort University
Situated adjacent to the River Soar, De Montfort University is the larger of the two universities in the city. Its origins can be traced back to 1870 when it was established as the Leicester School of Art, but the structure of teaching quickly changed to accommodate the changing face of society in the late 19th century.
Around 27,000 students currently study here and the university is made up of four faculties. These are:
- Art, Design and Humanities
- Health and Life Sciences
- Business and Law
De Montfort University was awarded Centre of Excellence status by the European Union in 2013, an accolade only given to universities that have demonstrated a high level of research and teaching. It also has one of the greatest numbers of Teacher Fellows in the UK.
University of Leicester
Students have been studying here since 1921 when Rutland University College, as it was then known, first opened its doors. The land for the university was generously donated by Thomas Fielding Johnson, a textile manufacturer from the local area, who wanted to build a memorial to all those whose lives were lost during WW1. The university’s motto Ut Vitam Habeant (so that they may have life) is a constant reminder of this thoughtful gesture.
Over 17,000 students are on the books and the main campus is based to the south of the city centre. Four colleges now replace the faculties that were in place until 2009. These are:
- College of Social Science
- College of Arts, Humanities and Law
- College of Medicine, Biological Sciences and Psychology
- College of Science and Engineering
Leicester has long been regarded as one of the finest research-led universities in the country and it is the only university to have been presented with the coveted Times Higher Education award for seven consecutive years.
Amongst its greatest achievements is its work in the field of genetic fingerprinting. Sir Alec Jeffreys invented and developed the techniques used in 1984 at Leicester, forever placing the university in the annals of science.
More recently, the Archaeological Services Department of Leicester University made the discovery of the remains of King Richard III, whilst working alongside Leicester City Council, in September 2012.
Student life in Leicester
Academic reasons aside, there are a multitude of other reasons why Leicester proves so popular with thousands of students each and every year. Shortlisted back in 2013 for the UK City of Culture award, Leicester is a vibrant city with an extremely rich heritage.
Culturally, Leicester has an extremely diverse population. South Asian and Afro-Caribbean communities make up a large proportion of the cities population and their influence can be found throughout the city. The largest Diwali celebrations outside of India are held here, for example.
There are currently fantastic property opportunities for potential investors, with a brand new and exclusive accommodation complex called ‘Primus Edge’ offering students plush and modern apartments to live in. Significantly, and uniquely in Leicester, it’s in close proximity of both the universities. This ensures that there certainly won’t be a shortage of undergraduates or postgraduates applying to bring some luxury to their student life.
There are plenty of things to see and do whilst studying in the city. Sport is huge, so much so that the city was named the European City of Sport back in 2008. Everything from the standard football (‘the foxes’), rugby and cricket facilities through to rowing, track cycling and American football is on offer.
With a large part of the city’s wider community made up of the students that study here, it is little wonder that they are so well catered for. The city centre is buzzing, and there are no end of bars, clubs and restaurants to choose from.
For those with a more cultural bent, Leicester has a number of fine museums, theatres and art galleries. Another welcome plus is the amount of green spaces that everyone can enjoy – whenever the weather permits!
Leicester is a cycle-friendly city and getting around is easy. Both universities are situated close to the city centre, providing easy access to amenities and entertainment. Friendly locals are welcoming, and the annual festivals that are held here give the city an ever-changing feel.
Highcross is Leicester’s main shopping area and it is where many of the usual high street favourites can be found. For those looking for a less commercial retail experience, Silver Street, St Martins Square and Leicester Lanes fit the bill.
Restaurants are plentiful across the city and there is a real foodie scene emerging. Stylish venues offering global cuisines sit alongside the usual takeaway establishments popular with students the length and breadth of the country.
Overall, anyone choosing to study in Leicester will be spoilt for choice when it comes to extracurricular activities.
Feature image credit: DncnH via Flickr.