What Will The Third Term Bring Notes

Unipol Student Homes

The UK Student Accommodation Forum- What Will the Third Term Look Like?

Thursday 22nd April, 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), Jayne Conboye (Head of Accommodation, University of Sheffield), Jane Donachy (Associate Director of Catering, Retail and Accommodation Services at University of the Arts London)

Martin Blakey – Overview

  • The Government has announced that students will return to campus under the next stage of the roadmap out of lockdown
  • The guidance states: “Following the review announced in the COVID 19 Response – Spring 2021 (Roadmap) of when all Higher Education students can return to in person teaching and learning, the Government confirms that these students should return no earlier than the 17th May’’
  • Office for National Statistics figures that suggest 75% of students are already at their term-time addresses
  • The National Code survey (which forms part of the ONS figures) found an overall average occupancy of 56%, although levels varied between different University towns and cities.
  • Department for Education and Office National Statistics have asked the National Code to carry out a second survey on occupancy – the original survey was limited to the largest 10 providers but the second survey will cover the top 20 providers.
  • Occupancy in Unipol’s own developments in Leeds and Nottingham has increased post-Easter
  • HEPI report – What is the worst research among students in recent times?

Jane Donachy – University of the Arts London

  • UAL is ranked No 2 in the world among Art & Design Universities
  • The University is made up of 6 Colleges and 22,000 students
  • The University operate 12 Halls of Residence
  • University estate spreads across 17 London boroughs
  • On-campus COVID testing sites are closing due to low uptake and the ability to access testing easily from home
  • Educational Planning:
    • A lot of UAL courses are practical – no courses can be delivered fully online, therefore blended learning will be at varying percentages throughout the Colleges
    • No in-person graduation as this is not feasible
  • Students returned to Campus on 8th March, with students spending 2 days on campus a week
  • All sites are open 8:30am – 6pm Monday to Saturday, with extended workshop/studio hours
  • Student Experience:
    • UAL Halls had 51% occupancy over Christmas – unusually high compared to 15% in previous years. This required a robust social programme being run during this period, including on Christmas Day.
    • Current occupancy is at 78%
    • Non-existent Summer Sales – this time will be used to do essential painting and maintenance works
  • A video has been produced by UAL to communicate the return to campus to students: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LLhxOc9mlKQ
  • A video on the UAL social programme can be viewed here: https://www.instagram.com/p/B_PkNqegXt3/
  • Marketing:
    • Applications and allocation process has changed completely – this usually opens in February but this has now been postponed until May
    • Weekly webinars have been run for students to attend and ask questions – this has helped form the applications/allocations process
    • Halls Life articles have been produced to guide students and help them to make the right decision when choosing their Halls
    • The messaging line has been ‘We’re here if you need us’, compared to a heavy drive for applications in previous years
    • Halls applications have also been extended to second & third years
  • Retail and Catering:
    • Click and collect service currently in place
    • It is seen as important that these services are open to make campus feel open for business and vibrant


Jayne Conboye – University of Sheffield

  • There are around 27,000 University of Sheffield students, and the University operates approximately 5,500 bed spaces
  • Halls of Residence are currently running at about 80% occupancy
  • 21 week rent rebates have been offered to students who are not currently using their accommodation – finding out if students are definitely not using their rooms is difficult as the doors are operated with keys rather than fobs
  • Large amount of fines given out by the Police to students for COVID breaches – police won’t disclose the exact number to the University
  • A high percentage of Postgraduates have remained in accommodation – some students have been stranded in the UK since the outset of lockdown in March 2020
  • There has been a lower uptake of Summer bookings than in previous years
  • 35-40 students still on rent strike – a watching brief on this issue
  • Challenges the 17th May could bring:
    • Many students academic year ends on 24th May – some may not come back at all
    • Exams and Assessments  -  many students will use their halls room as a study room and taking exams, and noise problems with students returning could adversely affect this
    • Striking a balance between in-person and virtual events
  • SU have announced a ‘relive your Freshers’ two-week programme from 12th June onwards
  • Students have heavily utilised nearby green space – some backlash from local community
  • Students are fatigued by information-heavy emails telling what they can and cannot do
  • Summer bookings are quiet, but there is an increased demand for higher end studio accommodation from international students
  • September is all about managing expectations – careful not to overpromise


  • There is a disconnect between guidance given to Universities on when students return, and how wider society is opening up
  • It’s important to strike a balance between safety and making campuses feel ‘open’ – the opening of on-campus services is crucial for this