If Students Are Here, What are They Doing? Notes

The UK Student Accommodation Forum – If Students are Here, What are They Doing and What is Being Provided?

Thursday 27th May, 11 AM-12:00 PM

A conversation on current trends in the Student Accommodation industry - brought to you by Unipol.

Guest Speakers: Susie Stringer (University Partnerships Coordinator, Unite Students), Dr Ela Nutu Hall (Head of Residence Life, University of Sheffield), Robin Walsh (Residential Services Operation Manager, University of Bournemouth)

Martin Blakey – Overview in the Sector

  • Students can return to campus on 17th May, as part of step 3 of the Government roadmap
  • At present, there is no evidence that the new guidance has resulted in additional students returning to their accommodation
  • Step 4 of roadmap is set to take effect from 21st June 2021 – this will be dependent on the social distancing review, which is a key aspect ofr how teaching can be delivered by universities in the autumn term
  • ONS published a report looking at number of issues between 4th to 12th https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/healthandwellbeing/bulletins/coronavirusandhighereducationstudents/england4to12may2021 (it is important to note the response rate was only 1.1% and are deemed ‘experimental statistics)
  • Findings of the report to note are 86% of student said that they were living at the same address as they were at the start of Autumn term 2020
  • 47% of student that left the house in the previous 7 days reported that they had met with family and friend they do not live with indoors, this was more than double than those who reported the same in March 2021 (21%)
  • Average life satisfaction among students remained stable in May 2021 at 5.8 out of 10
  • Average scores remained significantly lower than adult population in Great Britain (7)

What will students do in June?

  • It is predicted that students are planning to stay in their accommodation until the end of contracts
  • Private sector suppliers are running enhanced social programmes over May and June
  • Universities and SUs keen to provide social opportunities before the year is over

The 2021-2022 Academic year

  • Government guidance makes clear that: “Universities should make sure that continuing and prospective students receive clear, accurate and timely information to make informed decisions about their academic future.
  • Although Higher Education providers are planning the next academic year, until there is some clarity on social distancing it is difficult to provide detailed information
  • Some Universities announced recently that they were likely to continue lectures online in the 2021/22 term, which was met with hostility

House Hunting

Code Complaints

  • From 1st September 2020 to 30th April 2021 the National Code Complaints and Enquiries received 261 complaints (compared with 144 at the same time in 2020) and the top 5 causes of complaint were: Seeks release/refund (155) Repairs (23) Conditional upon arrival (13) Contract/rent (10) Customer service (8)
  • 231 complaints have been resolved (162 by the supplier and 68 by the investigator, 1 case has been resolved by a Tribunal and 30 cases remain open)


Robin Walsh – University of Bournemouth

  • University of Bournemouth benefit from close proximity to beaches/scenic locations
  • Lansdowne Area – 4950 bed spaces (BU portfolio and private PBSA)
  • Approximately 70-80% occupied across the portfolio, which equates to around 3400 students
  • The above figures don’t include HMOs, which is likely to add a significant number of students
  • ResLifeBU – The University residential life programme
    • Restrictions and poor weather has made the ResLifeBU programme even more important
    • 3 main strands – wellbeing, skills and social
    • During lockdown, engagement was generated via virtual weekly events (with a physical twist e.g. make up/food/equipment for the workshops being delivered to Halls) – Book Club, Make-up Masterclass, Murder Mystery, ZooLab, Resin Art Workshop, Thai Cooking (Live from Thailand)
    • Coming out of lockdown means back to physical events – Surf Lessons, Kayak Lessons, Day Trips, Bike Rides, ResLife Dogs,
    • Currently a survey is running to gauge attendance and opinion of events – 35% have attended
  • Students Union
    • The SUBU Summer Ball (flagship event) due to take place on 21st June has been cancelled
    • New initiative – Summers Here, a programme with 44 events, including weekly student club night ‘Lollipop’
  • SportBU
    • Gym has reopened and has proven really popular
    • Many sports teams are moving back to in person training and practice
  • Graduation ceremony will take place in November (no Summer graduation under normal circumstances anyway)
  • Currently quiet on the anti-social behavior and COVID breaching front – positive relationship with local council and police
  • Concerns on the impact of lockdown on student satisfaction – students not forming a relationship with the University and peers
  • Summary: There’ll be strong occupancy levels right up until the end of term, and possible rise in antisocial behavior post-exam period.

Dr Ela Nutu Hall – University of Sheffield

  • 6500 student bed spaces approximately. Student population of around 28,000
  • Residence Life is functioning well as part of a partnership between the University, the SU and SPORT Sheffield – this partnership helps students to build a sense of community and belonging
  • Closely connected to the wider community due to links of how the University was established
  • Accommodation offer is a combination of partnerships, owned, leased and managed arrangements
  • 4 strands to residence life offer: Residential Experience, Education and Skills, Social Responsibility, Healthy Lifestyles

Support, Wellbeing and Conduct

  • University has in-house counselling and wellbeing service but also benefits from student GP practice. The wellbeing services are also embedded into academic areas
  • The team have responded to 2851 support-related cases up to Jan 2021
  • Conduct – The team have responded to a total of 1402 conduct related cases up to Jan 2021. Of these 285 incidents (which involved over 1300 students) were investigated under University disciplinary procedures
  • ResLife time has not been able to facilitate the sense of community as much as other years – usual campaigns on student behavior, healthy relationships, sexual consent and fire safety have been largely online


  • Spring 2021 – the E&D programme included approximately 1900 events and activities (mostly online) which attracted over 14,000 student attendees
  • Ultimate goals are to create safe and inclusive communities that aid in students achieving academic success, whilst being supported and leading well-adjusted lives.


Susie Stringer – Unite Students

  • November 2021 survey – 93% of students intend to stay on at University, despite COVID 19 challenges, 85% likely to stay in their accommodation & 75% agreed that living in student accommodation away from home was better than the alternative. 29% stated they struggled to meet peers
  • In Residence Events
    • The Common Room – help and advice centre online
    • Online events organised by Student Ambassadors, working with University partners, and by Unite
    • These events include – lifestyle skills, cooking tutorials, fitness classes, talent shows
    • Student Support sessions with student ambassadors
  • Unite Roadmap
    • There are no plans to do large scale in person events when restrictions change on 21st June
    • COVID risk assessments and other measures will be reviewed as required
    • From 21st June – it is important to remain vigilant for students isolating, and implement additional security at properties
    • As part of refund offer students have been offered a free four week tenancy extension –the uptake has varied from City to City
  • 2021/2022
    • The future is bright and Unite are exercising cautious optimism
    • There is a belief that students will move into and return to student accommodation
    • Pre booking for check ins will remain
    • There are a few unknowns – potential changes to the Government roadmap, international student numbers and requirements for self-isolating