Words by Graham Murray
Student numbers in Fallowfield are in decline and the place is very gradually becoming a shadow of its former self, but why?
As the mass student migration of the annual post-exam exodus draws to a close, Fallowfield adopts a tamer and more timid exterior. It’s evident that Fallowfield’s character and existence is based around its student population. Fallowfield and the surrounding area is undoubtedly the student hub of Manchester. Student numbers in South Manchester are in decline however, a decline of approximately 20% in the past five years.
Greater Manchester has amassed the largest student population in Europe, with over 100,000 people studying in higher education institutions. This includes 62,975 that attend the University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and the Royal College of Music.
More and more students are choosing to live in the city centre, which has seen an increase in student accommodation–notably the Student Castle next to Oxford Road Train Station that was opened last year. Many more students are opting to commute, with the majority coming from other areas of Greater Manchester.
Non-student residents have frequently called for less student property in the area, including a poster campaign in Fallowfield in January 2012 calling for landlords to buy elsewhere. The South Manchester Regeneration project has stated its vision for the area:
“Fallowfield will keep its position as a vibrant centre known for its evening
economy and as a hub for student activity. However, the impact of students
will be less, with more students living in purpose-built accommodation, thus
reducing pressure on local terraced streets”
Legislation has now ensured that no new student properties will be built in Fallowfield. And there is now an oversupply of rentable property in the city centre, meaning that property not originally intended for the student market has been opened up to it.
The cost of living in Fallowfield can also be seen as crucial in the decline in the number of students. The average price of a property has risen by around £65 to £75 per week in the past five years. While Fallowfield has dropped its cheap and cheerful image in favour of a more upmarket approach, with establishments such as Robinskis, Bar 43 and Queens of Hearts dropped in favour of the trendier Nayaab, Wählbar and 256.
On top of this, the rising cost of bus prices can easily deter students. The cost of a Stagecoach annual Unirider is now £200, a necessity for students who study in the city campuses of Manchester Metropolitan University and the University of Manchester. Taking an average cost of £75, not including weekly bills on top of the £200 students must pay, students are not saving a vast sum of money living in Fallowfield. Especially when the cost of having the use the local Sainsbury’s factored in, in addition to the trouble of having to commute every day.
The decline in the number of students in South Manchester can also be attributed in part to the recession, and also to the recent rise in tuition fees that commenced last September. However, Fallowfield, Withington and the area around Wilmslow Road is likely to remain the student hub of Fallowfield. The fall in the number of students living in the area means that landlords have to work harder in order to attract tenants. This, coupled with the fact that students are savvier in terms of knowing what housing they seek, means that students can benefit now more than ever. Students are less inclined to settle for second-rate homes as they were just a few years ago. This could possibly be a by-product of the gradually rising tuition fees since the introduction of top-ups fees in 2006.
On the whole, it seems as though Fallowfield is adopting a more upscale image. Prices are rising, but so is the quality of living standards in the area and the quality of local establishments.