UK - UNITE, the UK student accommodation group, is to sell off assets worth as much as £150m (€172.5m) over the next 18 months in a bid to streamline its portfolio toward high-end universities in 'core' locations.

Director Paul Harris told IP Real Estate that the company, which has APG as a major shareholder, plans to sell older assets and those "not as closely allied to core universities".

As the first student accommodation provider in the UK market, UNITE quickly amassed well-located land in 23 university cities.

Most of its properties are located next to universities, and its strategy is to align itself with institutions with strong international ratings.

"We're already in the right places," said Harris.

He suggested the company - which also has insurer Allianz as a shareholder and a £370m capital cities joint venture with the property subsidiary of Singapore sovereign wealth fund GIC - would offload more such assets to free capital for more core acquisitions.

It is also planning a programme of 'affordable' - or lower cost - residential.

The formally niche but rapidly maturing student housing sector is undergoing a divergence between core investments and opportunistic, niche strategies.

Core investor Cordea Savills last month sold off to peripheral assets in Birmingham and North Wales to Knightsbridge Student Housing, which is targeting what it sees as "significant value" in the regions.

Harris said there were some regional markets where it would make no sense for private companies to operate at all - notably where rents for both university accommodation and private residential were low.

In an apparent further shift toward the international student segment, UNITE is to provide welfare information to students entering the UK.

It recently published research showing international students - which currently account for 46% of the firm's customers, with a forecast rise to 50% by the end of the year - tending toward the higher end of the market, and more concerned about location and cost transparency than about price.

The research also showed the UK holding up as a target market for higher education, not least because it is easier to get into the UK, with a greater availability of shorter courses, than some other countries.