Maintaining a Welcoming Environment

Unipol Student Homes

The UK Student Accommodation Forum- Maintaining a Welcoming Environment

Thursday 4th February, 11 AM-12:00 PM

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

Guest Speakers: Martin Blakey (CEO, Unipol), Caroline Persaud (Goodenough College), Steve McCarthy (CRM)

Martin Blakey – Hot Topics

  • An additional £50 million of support for students in England has been announced
  • This takes the overall support package to £70 million, with the funds being administered and distributed through the Office for Students – any students in financial hardship should contact their University directly
  • The fund is being targeted at supporting students with ‘additional costs’, with accommodation being noted under this
  • A statement from the Universities minister states that ‘the Government welcomes partial rent rebates from the private sector’
  • The APPG carried out an inquiry into tuition and accommodation costs
  • The inquiry calls for a substantial rise in hardship funds, and believed the actual cost for support is around the £256 million mark
  • They also called for the non-payment of council tax on empty student accommodation
  • It also states that tuition fee refunds would not be helpful or benefit students
  • The latest Government guidance for Higher Education has recently been updated


Caroline Persaud – Goodenough College

  • Weekly emails are sent to tenants with latest Government guidance interpreted in a way that makes it easier and clearer to understand – any changes made to guidance is colour coded for clarity
  • Pre-arrival chatrooms helped to encourage social interactions and connections
  • On arrival, students were given isolation buddies to swap phone number/emails with
  • Staff have been trained on appropriate responses to rule breaking – important to remember that staff aren’t the police
  • Initiatives during term time have included – guided walks, academic talks, hot chocolate/ice cream takeaway, un-silent discos, opera in the quad, bedtime stories with the Dean, fitness events run by students
  • Updating all notice boards and advertisements in the accommodation has had big impact on mental health – removing references to life/events pre-pandemic
  • Utilised and offered the Endsleigh student assistance programme
  • Empty/unoccupied rooms have been offered to those struggling with being isolated in their flat – I.e. utlising empty space for music practice, separate study space.


Steve McCarthy – CRM

  • Cluster kitchens have been marketed as the heart of the homes – group activities have been provided to flats that they can do together in communal kitchen spaces
  • Treats have been left outside flats to boost students wellbeing
  • CRM have harnassed a connection they have with an external recruitment firm to offer virtual interview practice/career advice for students
  • Traditional flat inspections have been modified and turned into more of a wellbeing/social interaction – staff go round flats with a tea trolley and chat to students whilst inspecting flats
  • There has been a lot of expectations on staff to have difficult conversations – support for staff to prevent burnount has been essential