Chapter 1
Our Journey to Graduation

This past decade, we’ve seen extraordinary growth and change to the landscape of the shared living industry. Visionary investors, developers, and operators have introduced flexible and community-oriented living concepts for global talent to markets across Europe. Billions of equity and institutional funds have been deployed on campus, housing projects, and regenerated districts. At The Class of 2020, our lifelong learning prevails as we reflect on organization milestones and the biggest game changing trends and innovations that have helped our industry progress.

Paradigm Shift: The Era of Living

Yoony Kim, Frank Uffen - The Class of 2020

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The Class Legacy

The Class of 2020 was initiated in 2011 in response to a growing student housing crisis in the Netherlands. It was founded by Frank Uffen and Charlie MacGregor. The idea was simple: bring all stakeholders together, open up the market and build more housing so students in 2020 would have no problem finding a room that fitted their needs and lifestyle.

Video introducing The Class of 2020.

The First Annual Class Conference

The conference was sponsored by 9 private and non-profit groups trying to open the market with deregulation and new investment. The conference was hosted in Casa400 Amsterdam, the first hybrid of PBSA, hotel and campus facilities founded in the 1960’s.  Over 100 representatives of universities, housing operators and elected officials attended to discuss the Class’ predictions that international student numbers would double and that 85.000 new rooms were needed in the Netherlands alone. The keynote was delivered by Alma Sealine, President of ACUHO-I showing that student housing is a contributor to academic success and can be a top 3 reason for students to choose a university.

Video of Alma Sealine’s keynote.

Trend Report: “A new future for student accommodation”

Our first trend report outlined a new vision for the future of student accommodation and internationalisation of higher education. Articles introduced international best practices and predicted that Europe could see similar levels of internationalization and growth as the UK did. Trends forecasts and research insights showed changing student demand and lifestyle. To inspire developers and operators,  10 housing typologies such as extended stay, “Friends” apartments, campus lofts, communal living were introduced.

The Class Conference: Investing in Student Housing

The second conference of The Class of 2020 doubled in size and took an international focus responding to growing interest from global investors into alternative investments and UK operators exploring European markets. Held in Amsterdam, the conference was attended by 225 participants representing five European countries, panels featuring 47 experts and supported by 13 partners and 5 sponsors.


Opening speech at the 2012 Conference by James Pullen, previously representing Knight Frank.

Non-profit status

The Class of 2020 was registered as a non-profit foundation in Amsterdam in 2012. This status assures its independence and allows it to grow as a professional platform for learning, exchange and network.

Second publication in Dutch!

The trend report was set-up as an guide to help new players understand the emerging student housing market. With focus still on the Netherlands, it highlighted the top 10 university cities to invest in. Different partners introduced their vision for the future and what partnerships they were seeking to grow. Elected officials from across the political spectrum were invited to give their agenda for reform of the housing market.

Annual Conference: The Next European Renaissance

Our first annual conference that was fully in English and had its focus on the European market instead of just the Dutch was held at Casa 400. We welcomed nearly 300 guests and 24 speakers in Amsterdam to discuss the opportunities that higher education and student accommodation present to get Europe out of crisis mode.

Video introducing The Class of 2020.

Partner Excursion London

In May, all partners of The Class of 2020 were invited to visit some of London’s most innovative student housing schemes. London-based operators discussed design, toured the projects, and talked about the prospects of the European market and growing importance of branding.

Launch of Partnership Programme

The Class of 2020 announced a new partnership programme focused on building networks, exchanging expertise and best practices.

Introducing our first English publication

Our annual Trend Report celebrated a great number of new projects that opened in 2012, and highlighted the best European university-cities to invest in. Reports and articles established the investor appetite to invest in PBSA as increasing student mobility and enrollment fueled the recovery of university cities across Europe.

The Class Conference: Investing in Student Housing

Over 260 participants from 20 countries gathered in Amsterdam on 12th November to network and discuss the future of student housing in Europe. Themes included the shift in perception of student housing, investment opportunities and product development.


Video of Conference.

Partner Excursion and Partner Meeting, Barcelona

Hosted by Melon District in cooperation with RESA, a group of delegates from our partners gathered in Barcelona to learn about student accommodation developments in the Spanish market. We also took the opportunity to host our first strategic partner meeting.

Launch of News Services: Tweets, Newsletter and Database

We  started to systematically make an inventory of student housing news throughout Europe and sharing it through our Twitter account and through monthly newsletters. Our new online database makes this news archive accessible to our partners and members.

Trend Report released: Millennials Take the Spotlight

In this edition, we explored how a disruptive generation is changing the PBSA business model, university and housing provider relationships, new European student housing investors and international university city strategies.

Conference: Rolling out the Red Carpet

Over 450 delegates gathered on November 4 and 5th for site visits and a conference held at DeLaMar Theatre in Amsterdam. The Class established its the leading European platform on student housing and described as a “movement” gathering strength and matching public interest with commercial energy. City marketeers addressed the economic power of universities and talent for cities and companies while universities declared that for them to grow international student mobility, they need sufficient and good student housing.

Video of Conference.

Doubling the partnership

The Class partnership programme proved popular, with the number of corporate partners doubling from 15 in January to 30 in October. Next to our corporate partners, we also welcomed institutional partners, who will help us strengthen our relationships with the higher education community. Turning the problem of accommodating (international) students into a strength through partnerships helps both universities and the housing community. Our partnership with CUBO, our panel at the EAIE conference and our good relationship with ACUHO-I have been instrumental in furthering this mandate.

Partner meeting Berlin

In April, The Class travelled to Berlin for our second partnership meeting. We undertook site visits and in-depth sessions about the future of The Class, the German student housing market, and also strengthened the networks in The Class community.

Trend Report: Rolling out the Red Carpet

In this trend report, we highlighted how Europe’s university cities compete for talent, the international student experience and student housing market updates. There were 15 expertly curated articles in this edition.

The Class Conference: Learning Hubs – The future of the university-city in Vienna, Austria

This conference was our largest and first international one! The energy from the speakers and participants inspired us to continue touring our future annual conferences. The Class of 2020 showcased how cities and universities are increasingly discovering the power of collaboration to better accomplish their goal to become premier “Learning Hubs”.


Video of Conference.

Video message from Wouter Onclin, Strategic Development Consultant at SITE and previous Foundation Manager of The Class of 2020


The growth of our partnership base has sustained in 2016 – we now have 60 partners from all over the world. With the support of our partners we were able to grow our team as well, making it possible to prepare some exciting research topics in the coming years.

Launch of higher education membership

We believe that connections between universities and housing providers are key in solving many of our student accommodation issues. The Class has launched a membership for the higher education community to support and develop the profession of housing officers in Europe.

The Launch of Regional Sessions

Together with our partners we have launched regional sessions: in-depth student housing sessions in different European countries. In 2016 we organized sessions in Madrid, Berlin and Amsterdam.

Trend Report: Learning Hubs – The future of the university-city

In this issue, we highlighted the power of collaboration between universities and cities. We also introduced student housing stakeholders to the coliving concept and included market updates from 18 different countries, our largest pan-European analysis yet!

The Class Conference in Lisbon: The Global Student: Building Bridges Over Growing Barriers

The theme of The Class Conference 2017 envisioned the European student living sector as a source of unity against a growing divisive political discourse emphasizing borders and differences. Our conference gathered more than 70 highly recognized speakers to discuss through 20 panels the future of student living, working and learning. It equally focused on investment trends, the future of education in Europe, the role of technology and the way talent is shaping knowledge cities.

Video of Conference.

Res-life Workshop

We ran a residence life workshop in Amsterdam in May, bringing together residence life experts from North America, the UK and Europe to discuss student needs, from community building to combatting loneliness and addressing mental health.

The Team

As a team, we have had some departures and exciting arrivals. In 2017 we welcomed Jorick Beijer as the new Foundation Manager for The Class of 2020, along with new research team leads.

Mission Expanded

The Class of 2020 has found itself at an interesting crossroad. We will always remain true to our student housing origins and will continue to work to improve student living across Europe; however, we also belive that our work with the students of today does not end when they receive a diploma. Thus, we have expanded our vision to look at the lives of recent graduates and young professionals as well. New topics that we are exploring include: coliving, coworking, innovation districts, talent attraction and retention and city-university coorporation.

Trend Report

This edition of the Trend Report highlighted global campus trends, student housing KPIs and legal changes impacting our industry. The growing demand and for leveraging technology was also a major theme embedded throughout the report.

The Class Conference: From Post-Industrial City to the New Urban Campus in Milan

With 650 attendees coming from 27+ countries, strong presence of the higher education industry and the many students involved, the 2018 European Class Conference was bigger and better than ever before. Alternatives underpinned by a long-term structural trend proved to be increasingly attractive. The Conference reports a pipeline in Europe now accounting for 350 projects & 105,000 beds, with a focus on Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Hamburg and Vienna.


Conference 2018 Movie.

The Milano Urban Campus Advisory Project

On invitation of the city council of Milan, we launched the Milano Urban Campus advisory project in which we could truly leverage our thinking and network towards tangible impact. With 8 of our partners and local stakeholders, we co-created new urban campus strategies that re-invent the future of abandoned railyards in Milan.

“The power of having 20 industry leaders co-creating for four days onsite is incredible. But what are the odds of that happening? In a competitive landscape, The Class of 2020 is one of the few platforms able to facilitate such meeting of the minds, allowing public stakeholders to tap into incredible collective intelligence. We started the Milano Urban Campus as a pioneering project for The Class, and it turned into a methodology. One putting the university at the heart of the city, leveraging on (international) talent as placemakers and drivers of new knowledge economies. All of that is strikingly topical today, as European city centers have to come up with strategies for re-emergence. The key? Solid positioning and programming for sure, but mostly, strong partnerships around a shared purpose.”  

Jorick Beijer, Founder of Blossity, previously Director of The Class of 2020 from 2017-2019

Jorick Beijer speaking at MIPIM in 2018.

Trend Report: From Post-Industrial City to the New Urban Campus

In this issue, we highlighted the power of collaboration between universities and cities. We also introduced student housing stakeholders to the coliving concept and included market updates from 18 different countries, our largest pan-European analysis yet!

The Class Conference: Blended Living

The Class of 2020 hosted the world’s largest student housing and coliving conference in Berlin. Around 800 industry experts, city government and higher education institution officials discussed the challenges and opportunities that blurring boundaries create for the future of living, working and learning.

Video from the 2019 Conference.

The Class Goes Global

The Class team expanded its global network outside of Europe to exchange best practices in student housing, coliving, coworking and hybrid hospitality. We visited 7 vibrant urban cities including Singapore, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Sydney, Melbourne, Dubai and New York City.

Global Tour, Lyf by Ascott, Singapore

Global Tour, Scape, Melbourne

Global Tour, WeWork, New York City

Advisory: The Future of Urban Living

Together with Berlin Partner for Busines and Technology and fifteen leaders from the real estate, student accommodation and the urban sectors, The Class of 2020 conducted a series of in-depth interviews, complimentary research and analysis to propose the outlook on the future of urban living and talent attraction.

Trend Report: The Future is Blended

This Trend Report led the way in discussing various blends in modern ways of living. This includes innovative shared living models which provide high quality living, working and learning environments. A highlight of this report is our advisory project with Berlin Partners which focused on talent attraction and housing in Berlin.

The Class Conference: Fast-Forwarding Our Future

Our first-ever virtual conference was broadcasted live from The Student Hotel studio in Amsterdam. Given the need to convene virtually, we completely re-imagined our flagship conference and welcomed boundary blurring leaders from across industries to inspire our community to make a better future happen faster in a talk show style format.


The Class embraces blended living, working and learning

The Class Insider

We introduced The Class Insider to stimulate a real time collaboration between the higher education stakeholders and student accommodation operators. Since COVID-19 forced our industry to pivot quickly as uncertainties appear every day, we created a weekly (virtual) platform to share the expertise and insights on the most urgent topics we identified every week for 4 months. This initiative stimulated collaboration share correct information from direct and trusted sources.

The Class Academy

To benefit our community’s continuous learning, The Class of 2020 shaped and organized The Class Academy on PropTech: Operational Excellence for Resident Satisfaction in Shared Living. It was an interactive training session designed and executed by the industry, for the industry to address common operational challenges to co-create innovative solutions.

Trend Report: Fast-Forwarding Our Future

Much like our GRADUATION theme, this year’s Trend Report also transitioned onto a digital platform for maximum interactivity and uniquely represents The Class of 2020’s yearbook and graduation thesis to signify this monumental time.  The Class Annual Trend Report will spotlight  3  tips of the knowledge eco-system golden triangle (higher education, real estate, university cities) and 3 phases of our journey: past, present and future.

The Hybrid Model Comes of Age

Charlie MacGregor - The Student Hotel, The Class of 2020

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