Student Living France 2024: Key Takeaways

February 21, 2024


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Kicking off our Student Living Forum series for 2024, our first country of focus was France. On the 15th of February we delved into the student accommodation landscape in the country unveiling a market ripe with opportunities and challenges alike.  

After an overview of France’s student population and PBSA supply, we reviewed the perspective on domestic and international students, the potential of refurbishing disused office spaces, evolving regulations, and how to optimise project sizes to meet varying city dynamics. Joining us to speak on the market were Marcus Roberts, Director – Head of Operational Capital Markets in Europe from Savills, Pierre Seguin, Head of Investments & Asset Management from UXCO Group, and Sébastien Morizot, Director at EQT Exeter.

This article delves into key takeaways from the webinar, offering insights into the evolving landscape of student accommodation in France.

Large student population, incipient private PBSA supply:  

Savill’s data insight presentation shed light on the French market, revealing one of the largest student populations in Europe at 2.94 million students, and a supply of 464,789 students beds, making for a 16% provision rate.

Most of the PBSA supply is run by the public sector, and of the PBSA supply, only 38% is run by the private sector and only 3% is new generation supply.

As such, the PBSA sector in France is currently marked by a significant presence of domestic institutions, like CROUS, but this means that France lacks quality private PBSA, which presents an opportunity for foreign investors to fill the gap.

Domestic and international students balance:

The panelists discussed that in spite of the large student population and influx of international students, the French market for PBSA is still largely still domestic-focused. In order to cater to international students, they thus emphasised the importance of improving the quality of the product in order to have a more global appeal – most importantly to create a safe, secure, all-inclusive environment.  Pierre of UXCO group mentions how they even use two different brands of student accommodation to appeal to domestic and international students respectively, with former relying on closer communities and spaces, and the ECLA brand for internationals having more amenities.  

The Government however is keen on attracting more international students, and highlights the competitive advantage of France in terms of relatively low tuition fees and high-ranking educational institutions, so there is great potential for new generation Private PBSA.

Potential for refurbishment:

During the webinar, the conversation addressed the potential for transforming obsolete office buildings into PBSA. Sébastien from EQT Exeter noted the large number of office spaces in the region that are underutilised or vacant and referred to as "zombie buildings." The idea is to convert these spaces into student housing, capitalising on the growing demand for such accommodation.  

The preference of the market and the public sector currently is for residential use over commercial use to ensure students can benefit from state subsidies and longer stays. However, there are challenges such as zoning regulations and opposition from local authorities who may lose tax revenue from converted office spaces. Despite these hurdles, operators are still actively pursuing to convert office buildings into student accommodation as it is a great opportunity.

Changing regulations and working with municipalities:

The panelists also discussed the potential impact of upcoming municipal elections on the transformation of office buildings into student accommodation. Some mayors may be more supportive of such projects, particularly those focused on revitalizing their areas.  

Since the next elections are in 2026, there may be a pause in analysing new projects, it was agreed among the panelists that it is important to seize the current moment for discussions and initiatives before potential hurdles with municipalities. There is an essential need for effective storytelling and demonstration of benefits to convince municipalities of the viability of such projects.

Overall, proactive engagement and showcasing tangible outcomes can facilitate progress in converting office spaces into student housing and to establish more student housing in general.

Optimum size for PBSA projects in France?:

We also gained insights into the evolving nature of the market, witnessing a shift towards larger assets and direct let models. Sébastien mentioned the impact of land tax on profitability and suggested that a good minimum of 200 units is needed for a profitable PBSA project.
However, the importance of considering market dynamics and tailoring projects to specific cities was also emphasised as there is no one perfect size for every city. For example, in certain cities a residence over 200 beds could be too much for the citizens.


In essence, the landscape of student accommodation in France presents both promising opportunities and notable challenges. With one of the largest student populations in Europe and a relatively low provision rate of private PBSA, there exists significant potential for investment and growth in this sector.

While the evolving student accommodation sector in France offers ample opportunities for investors and operators to address the growing demand for quality housing, proactive engagement with municipalities has become increasingly important in order to overcome hurdles of refurbishment and zoning regulations.


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