Have University Campuses Lost Their Mojo?

Friday 29th April 2022, 11.00am – 12.05pm

Speakers: Martin Blakey (CEO – Unipol Student Homes), Jo Hardman (Director of Commercial Services - Lancaster University) and Paul Burns (Accommodation Manager - University of Manchester)

This forum explored:

  • are all University campuses being affected in the same way, or is there any pattern?

  • have University campuses become similar to 9.00-5.00 office complexes with socialising taking place elsewhere?

  • if campuses are quieter does this affect students’ stated desire to be living close to them?

  • are students increasingly using their residences as their place of study?

  • to what extend are these changes transitory or is what has been called “digital transformation” a one-way trip?

View the recording of this event here.

Martin Blakey – Sector Updates

  • The agreements in place with the Deposit Protection Service, mydeposits and the Tenancy Deposit Scheme for the provision of Tenancy Deposit Protection schemes have been renewed for a further four years and will come up for renewal again on 31st March 2026

  • Public Account Committee has published its report on the regulation of the private rented sector: Have published its report on the regulation of the private rented sector. https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/9608/documents/162544/default/. The key conclusions are: 

    • it is too difficult for renters to realise their legal right to a safe and secure home

    • access to redress mechanisms is severely limited

    • the system is highly complex and requires significant time and resource to pursue court action

  • The Higher Education Minister, Michelle Donelan MP: “The government plays no role in the provision of student residential accommodation. Universities and private accommodation providers are autonomous and are responsible for setting their own rent agreements. We encourage universities and private landlords to review their accommodation policies to ensure they are fair, clear and have the interests of students at heart.” - 21st January 2022

  • Different university campuses are being affected differently. Some are almost at pre-Covid levels of footfall – others are well down.

  • Many central catering facilities have been closed (often turned into work and socialising spaces)

  • The fewer students there are on campus, the less reason to be there to meet others

  • The fewer students there are on campus the more the social scene moves to local neighbourhoods, city centres or socialising takes place in living accommodation

  • Unipol’s energy and water usage (up to the end of February 2022) was 30% up on pre-Covid days, indicating greater occupancy.

Jo Hardman - Lancaster University 

  • There is a need to think long term, we are only in the beginning of being 'post-covid'.

  • Lancaster's campus is quite full, there is slightly more vacancy than there has been in other years.

  • There are positives of the greater flexibility given by working from home but there are also negative habits that have been formed. 

  • The cost of living crisis is likely to have a big impact.

  • We need a focus on building communties, intergrating working and leisure in city centres is key.

  • Universities need to see campuses as a place for staff as well and need to be in holistic in how we are helping staff to live their lives. This includes simple things such as parcel deliveries to campus and ability to pick up prescriptions, parking and childcare.

  • It is important to make the campus a family friendly place.

Paul Burns - University of Manchester

  • Socialising seems to be taking place in and around the university, lots of staff and students living in and around campus.

  • The cost of living crisis has the potential to reduce the presence of people on campus.

  • It is easy to imagine students being unable to afford expensive city experiences and will do more of the in accommodation socialising seen in lockdown.

  • Manchester has not experienced a decline in applications or interest.

  • The attendance at offer holder visit days and open days has been really high in person, there is a high demand to see the campus.

  • There has been lots of activity in and around the campus.

  • Staff group as a whole is not as alive and active and on campus as the student body is.

  • Students want the physical interactions with others in seminars and lectures.

  • Sixth form student experiences are keen for in person content after doing a lot of studying online in the last few years.

  • It is not a binary choice between digitial transformation and on campus experience.

  • On site availability is key.