DECEMBER 8TH - EDUCATION, AMBITION, REGENERATION
From today, students at Wales’s eight universities will see yet another change to their tuition in a year that’s been full of them. All Welsh university teaching goes online today, as students plan their journeys home for Christmas. What ought to be a simple journey is anything but, of course, as all students are being asked to get a negative Coronavirus test before travelling. Tomorrow is the last day they’ll be allowed to travel, and we can’t blame them if they’re glad to see the back of us after what they’ve had to endure in 2020.
What happens when they come back next year?
What’s do we want for Swansea’s students and for Swansea in the 2020s?
A regular influx of talented undergraduates with affordable accommodation that gives them the comfort to excel in their studies and the motivation to stay in the city and contribute to the local economy?
Independent retailers thriving in service of local customers with money to spend?
In spite of the setbacks forced by Coronavirus, High Street student accommodation may yet help us to achieve both of these goals.
By the beginning or 2020 the Oldway Centre was already established as a residence of choice for Swansea students. Occupancy rates were high, and the makeover that transformed a run of the mill government workplace into high quality accommodation for over 550 students was looking like money well spent. A games room, a cinema room and a 24-hour reception service set a standard that would surely encourage visitors to stay. A second development, catering for almost 800 students, is underway in nearby Mariner Street. By the Autumn of 2021, over 1300 students will call this central area their home.
What could this mean for the independent retailers whose hard work and creativity shows Swansea at its best? It could mean customers with disposable income on their doorsteps. It could mean sustainable and well-deserved profit. And what could it mean for the city’s long- term competitiveness? Already blessed with excellent universities and further education centres, the more Swansea integrates its visiting students, the more likely they will be to want to stay when their studies are complete. Young people from all over the country and all over the world come to this city for first-rate education and training, and a springboard for their career of choice. Why should that career have to take them away from a place they’ve learned to call home?
Come for the education, stay for the city and the opportunities it can offer. The regeneration of Swansea High Street and the development of student accommodation on it ticks a lot of boxes. It sends out a clear message that ambitious, talented people should come here and stay here. When you combine education and ambition in a city that’s ideally placed to accommodate both, regeneration will surely follow. Watch this space.