A recent report on the $32 billion international student industry paints a dire picture.
The Mitchell Institute found that applications for international student visas were down by 80–90 per cent compared to this time last year, with modelling suggesting there will be an approximate 50 per cent reduction in international students in Australia by July 2021.
This is a huge problem for Scape, who are the country’s largest provider of purpose-built student accommodation.
Their solution is to take on the quarantining costs themselves, offering facilities for up to 20,000 foreign students – as long as the government allows the industry to take the lead.
“If we don’t open up quarantine beyond hotels we won’t get students back,” Scape Australia chairman Craig Carracher told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“If we start on January 1 we could have almost 20,000 quarantining students up until the end of the April,” he said.
“The broader industry could also add 2000 beds nationally as single occupancy units, as part of an industry-led solution.”
Late last year, Scape Australia made several takeover deals that saw them become the country’s largest student accommodation owner and operator.
In September, they took over the Atira portfolio of facilities in Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide in a $700 million deal.
Scape then secured the largest property transaction of 2019, striking a deal to acquire Urbanest’s $2 billion portfolio of 7000 student rooms across 14 buildings, in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide.
They have also made development applications for $1 billion worth of new facilities close to UNSW Sydney, suggesting they believe the foreign student market will open back up before too long. But, as Mr Carracher said, the industry needs to lead the way.
“Occupancies will reduce aggressively if we don’t see an opening of international borders for students,” Mr Carracher said.
“Our worst case scenario is as low as 25 per cent – which is actually not as bad as we feared.”