The Unite Group plc
IndustryStudent accommodation#Off campus residences
FounderNicholas Porter
HeadquartersBristol, England, UK
Key people
Phil White CBE, (Chairman)
Richard Smith (CEO)
Joe Lister (CFO)
ProductsStudent accommodation (halls of residence)
ServicesProperty investment and development
RevenueIncrease £215.6 million (2020)[1]
Increase £(27.5) million (2020)[1]
Decrease £(122.2) million (2020)[1]
Number of employees
1,900 (2021)[2]

The Unite Group (trading as Unite Students) provides purpose built student accommodation (PBSA) across the United Kingdom.

The company is listed on the London Stock Exchange as a constituent of the FTSE 250 Index.[3]


A Unite Students facility near Tottenham Hale station
A Unite Students facility near Tottenham Hale station

The Unite Group was founded by Nicholas Porter in Bristol, England, in 1991.[4] Aged 21 and following research with the University of the West of England, he recognised a growing demand for student accommodation.[5] After a period of expansion within Bristol, in 1998 Unite opened its first properties in London. It listed on the Alternative Investment Market the following year.[6]

In 2000 the business moved its share register to the London Stock Exchange, and opened properties in Manchester, Liverpool and Portsmouth.[7] During the following decade, Unite created investment vehicles to secure growth in London, across England and into Scotland. Of these vehicles, The Unite UK Student Accommodation Fund (USAF[8]) is Europe's largest fund focusing solely on direct-let student accommodation.[9] In 2006, Porter announced he was stepping down as chief executive. He was succeeded at the end of the year by chief financial officer Mark Allan.[10]

Former National Express chief executive Phil White became non-executive chairman in May 2009, succeeding Geoffrey Maddrell, after ten years in the role.[11] By 2011 the business had grown to 40,000 beds. It remains the UK's largest provider of student accommodation by capacity,[12] but second to IQ Student Accommodation by value of its portfolio of property.[13]

In 2012 it founded charitable trust The Unite Foundation, which provides free accommodation and a cost-of-living allowance to students from "challenging circumstances".[14] In April 2014 Unite renamed itself "Unite Students". Simultaneously, it launched its "Home for Success" corporate philosophy; which it describes as its "business purpose". The Home for Success announcement included a £40m reinvestment of profits into the business and 16 "signature commitments", all of which relate to an improved student experience.[15]

Unite Group converted to a real estate investment trust with effect from 1 January 2017.[16]

In December 2019, Unite Students completed its acquisition of competing student housing provider Liberty Living.[17] The deal, worth £1.4 billion, was approved by the Competition and Markets Authority the previous month.[18]


The company provides residential accommodation to around 50,000 students in circa 140 buildings across the UK,[19] and is the largest and oldest PBSA provider in the country.[20]

Notable properties


  1. ^ a b c "Annual Results 2020" (PDF). Unite Students. Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  2. ^ "Home for success". Unite Students. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  3. ^ "London Stock Exchange - Trade recap". London Stock Exchange.
  4. ^ "Bristol Post Business Awards: Unite Students take top award". South West Business. 6 July 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2017.
  5. ^ "Nicholas Porter - The Sunday Times". Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  6. ^ "DTZ loses Bristol director to student housing specialist". Radius Data Exchange. 9 June 1999. Retrieved 3 March 2021.
  7. ^ "Our story so far". Unite Students. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  8. ^ "UNITE UK Student Accommodation Fund". Retrieved 29 March 2020.
  9. ^ "Bedell". Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  10. ^ "Student digs chief steps down with honours". Property Week. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  11. ^ "Unite Group taps Phil White as new chairman". Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  12. ^ "Unite Students set for 399-bed Aberdeen development". Property Week. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  13. ^ Curry, Rhiannon (18 February 2018). "RBS director to chair UK's largest student digs company". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 10 September 2018 – via
  14. ^ "About Us". Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  15. ^ "Home for Success". Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  16. ^ "Notice of General Meeting for REIT Conversion and Trading Update". Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  17. ^ Beech, Adam (29 November 2019). "Unite Group Completes Liberty Living Acquisition". Insider Media. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  18. ^ Clark, Jessica (6 November 2019). "Competition and Markets Authority approves £1.4bn Unite Students acquisition of Liberty Living". City A.M. Retrieved 15 April 2020.
  19. ^ "Unite lights touchpaper in the search for fire security innovation". BFM Magazine. 28 April 2017.
  20. ^ "Unite snaps up Cordea Savills' £137m student housing portfolio". Financial Times. Retrieved 3 April 2015.
  21. ^ "Grand Central". Emporis. Retrieved 29 March 2010.
  22. ^ "Worlds Tallest Student Block Completes In Leeds". Skyscraper News. 26 June 2009. Retrieved 17 March 2012.