Socials Notes

Unipol Student Homes

The UK Student Accommodation Forum- Socials

Thursday 3rd September, 11 AM-12 PM

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


Guest Speakers: Martin Blakey, (CEO, Unipol), Tracy Stanton (Assistant Director of Operations, Fresh Property Group), Kelly-anne Watson (Delivery and Development Officer, Unipol), Aimee Hart (Marketing Co-ordinator, Unipol)



  • An open discussion took place around the significant drop in the number of new International students arriving this September – projected numbers are at around 30% of the previous year
  • It was noted that the number of EU students was down significantly compared to overseas non-EU students.
  • Some Providers stated they had not experienced a significant drop as first feared
  • The impact of international student numbers on accommodation providers is heavily dependent on the local HEI’s approach – e.g. UCL have given international students the opportunity to undertake their entire year remotely from their home country.
  • There has still been no clear answer as to whether Postgraduate students whose courses begin in January will require accommodation from September-December. It is also unclear as to what impact Visa delays will have on when - and if - international students arrive at the start of Semester.
  • One Provider raised an issue around Visa delays – initially international students were to be offered an early arrival so they could isolate before the academic year began. However, due to these delays international arrivals will now have to undertake their self-isolation period on arrival in flats with home students who do not have to self-isolate.


Res-Life Programmes:

  • The residential unit will be the most important social network for students in the upcoming academic year
  • Unipol are encouraging personal responsibility, over a more rule-based and punitive approach. However, should the rules be flouted, a harder line will be taken
  • It was noted in Leeds some student parties had been targeted under the new fining powers and two students had already been given £10,000 fines.






Tracy Stanton – Fresh Property Group

  • Fresh see the wellbeing of their residents as a main priority; this has become even more of a focus during the lockdown period and moving forward for the academic year
  • Fresh has adapted in many ways during lockdown in order to support students:
    • Quarantine support e.g. food delivery
    • Signposting
    • Providing information on Government updates
    • COVID secure video produced to reassure students and parents of the measures that have been put in place within each development
    • Virtual tours and events
    • Team welcome videos sent in advance to students
    • Better utilisation of technology to interact and support students
  • Mission for 2020/21 – ‘Build a community for residents that truly supports their wellbeing, allowing for opportunities to make new friends and to showcase Fresh as the perfect place to live.’


  • “Be” – new wellbeing and lifestyle programme. There are 3 main aims
    • Create an all-inclusive wellbeing and lifestyle programme to keep residents engaged with Fresh and their neighbours
    • Create a sense of community where our residents feel welcomed & connected at all times
    • Utilise “Be” as a hub for resources to support mental health and wellbeing
  • Fresh have developed 4 main pillars that underpin the aims:
    • Be Social – weekly events, virtual engagement
    • Be Active – access to online fitness classes/on-site gyms, and working to create partnerships with local gyms
    • Be Connected – opportunities for students to get to know each other
    • Be Supported – providing links to resources and blogs
  • The weekly programme is made up of 5 core events:
    • Motivation Monday – online campaign of posting motivational quotes, and also posting these physically around developments
    • Tea with the Team Tuesday – a chance for students to have a brew with the staff, catch up and talk through any issues
    • Wednesday WOD – workout day via online classes
    • Trivia Thursday – weekly quiz night using ‘Kahoot!’
    • Feel Good Friday – freebies, treats and competitions
  • For those students who may not feel able to interact with the core events, or have work/academic commitments that prevent participation in these, an ‘Action Calendar’ will run alongside this, to help build a community feel.
  • If anyone would like more information, please contact


Kelly-anne Watson – Unipol

  • Working to create social bubbles within flats to create communities and bonding
  • #MakingMemories campaign – students will be encouraged to send photos of their groups and time during the welcome period. All students who contribute will be entered into a prize draw to win an Amazon Fire Stick and Alexa.
  • Creating a sense of family and community will also be done through the ‘’Big Night In’’ campaign – Quiz events will be held using Quizbit and pizza making kits will be delivered to each flat
  • Outdoor spaces at developments will be utilised to bring external partners on site to run events/stalls
  • Postive/motivational affirmations will be posted via social media and students will be encouraged to share these
  • Residents Assistants (RAs) will be running Walking Tours, to ensure students get an insight into what is available for them within the City
  • Students at each development will be encouraged to form ‘Friendlies’ (casual sports teams) and other groups with shared interests – this will be facilitated via the main Facebook page for each development
  • Training for RAs is being run over 3 days (as opposed to 2), with plenty of breaks and interactivity built in so they’re not overwhelmed. There will be 1 day of on-site training for practical areas of the job, and 2 held via Zoom


Aimee Hart, Unipol

  • Traditional ‘Welcome’ programme has been completely redesigned – aim to minimise anxiety and reassure students, whilst increasing brand awareness
  • There has been a shift to a bigger focus on support – Housing managers have been introduced via videos, and a tenancy support video has been developed with input from the Tenancy Support and Wellbeing Coordinator
  • COVID-safe video will be displayed on screens in Unipol offices and at each development
  • The social aspect of welcome has been promoted since the beginning of the campaign, with students encouraged to join their site Facebook group and form groups within this
  • Unipol merchandise will be in each students room to welcome them e.g. travel mugs, tote bags
  • Troubleshooting videos have been filmed for basic and recurrent problems e.g. how to use the washing machine, how to fix the hoover – these will minimise the need for staff to enter flats
  • Snapchat location filters have been designed for each site
  • Activity to encourage retention will look different this year, as traditional house hunting stalls and door-knocking is no longer viable, so early buy-in through the welcome campaign is essential
  • Walk-through videos for virtual viewings were filmed across the portfolio over Summer – also looking to collect video tenant testimonials
  • RAs will also play a vital part in encouraging retention and will receive extra training on social media and co-ordinating socials/events
  • One big challenge that has been identified is that there is now a large amount of pressure of the comms team, with a quick shift to digital engagement being a main priority
  • There is also the challenge of not overwhelming students with too much information that they then disengage with other campaigns/support
  • It will also be challenging to engage with returning students (mainly in off-street properties) who have lived a ‘normal’ University and social life, who will miss their previous experiences during welcome/freshers
  • Working collaboratively has been valuable when designing the programme – it has also proved beneficial for the whole organisation to be briefed and understand what the welcome programme looks like

Q & A

  • How have you adapted training for new RAs?
    • Kelly-anne – noted the increase in not only the number of applications but also the quality of candidates
    • Training programme was revamped last year, and the content has been adapted to be carried out via Zoom over 3 days (2 virtual, 1 on-site)
    • For more information about the approach Unipol have taken to training, please contact