The National Codes Student Experience Conference

Event Review

On Thursday 21st March 2024 we welcomed 120 delegates from across the PBSA sector to the inaugural National Codes Student Experience Conference. The event, held at the Lowry, Salford Quays had a packed agenda with a vast amount of knowledge and experience from the list of speakers.

Delegates arrived and spent some time networking and visiting the exhibitors in the Circle Bar. Exhibitors included:

Garrett Learning who had delegates playing ‘Prize Pong’ and shared sunflower seeds.

Kinetic who showcased their app for students and had some brilliantly branded chocolate.

Unipol’s Tenancy Support Team who were ready for chats on how Tenancy Support can enhance the student experience.

Once all delegates arrived we made our way through along the Lowry gallery walkway to the Compass Room for the first of the day’s sessions. The keynote was delivered by Paddy Jackman, Chief Executive, Unipol Student Homes and focussed on Changing Students – Evolving the Accommodation Experience. Setting the scene with some insights about the rapidly evolving student demographic in the UK, and what these changes mean for universities and accommodation providers.

On to session 2 with Roxanne Muller, Higher Education Lead at StudentCrowd. Roxanne shared findings from StudentCrowd’s research and highlighted trends which are emerging in student numbers and PBSA demand. We heard that value for money is the main factor for students when deciding on PBSA, but the level of staff support is the main factor which retains them.

The next session focused on Supporting Student Mental Health and was delivered by colleagues from Student Minds - Chastyn Webster, Head of Programmes, and Sophie Cohen Jones, Training Manager. They drew on finding from their own research into what best practice in this area looks like on the ground, and how attendees and their organisations could become involved with the University Mental Health Charter Programme.

We then heard from Ed Jacobs from The Public Affairs Company who gave an update on the Renters Reform Bill and the 2024 general election.
Ed said “The next parliament is going to look very different”, and recommended that student accommodation providers “start making local contacts, encourage your local MPs to meet the students you support and show them the important work you do so you have the contacts you need when it come to pushing for policy change.”
He also stressed the importance of students being registered to vote and accommodation providers should remind their tenants to do this.

We then heard about Supporting Disabled Students in PBSA – What Good Should Look Like

“Ask students what adjustments they need, not their diagnosis.” Piers Wilkinson, Independent Consultant & Commissioner and Jade Husdan-Hick, Disabled Students’ Officer, University of York Students’ Union shared their experiences with us and explained how we can better support disabled students in PBSA.

Followed by a Roundtable Discussion where we discussed How do you currently deal with requests for adaptations and how could that be improved?

We stopped for lunch, networking and exploring the exhibitor stands. This also gave a bit of time to digest the information we had heard during the morning sessions. Once we were refreshed we split in to Strand sessions. Strand 1 was all about Supporting Students, while Strand 2 was focussed on Knowing the Code.

Strand 1 – Supporting Students

To kick-off the sessions, we heard from Tom White, Co-Founder and CEO of WAU Agency who gave an insight into the findings from the Investors in Students 360 Insights Report 2024, noting that well informed, empowered, motivated and trusted teams allow students to thrive, and also dug down into the specific results from students based on gender and sexuality identity.

The second session focused on interactivity through a Social Programme Workshop delivered by The Property Marketing Strategists (Sarah Canning and Deenie Lee), supported by the Unipol Tenancy Support Team (Toria Thomas and Beth Murphy). The workshop began by looking at the outputs from the TPM Youth Forum questions on community building and University, followed by some group work discussing tangible ways accommodation providers can can nurture community to enrich the student


This strand was rounded off via A brilliant panel session led by Unipol’s Jess Carrier, discussing the relationship between universities and PBSA providers, focusing on the benefits of collaborative work, data sharing and partnerships in order to deliver the best experience possible for students. Jess was joined by Ed Naylor (Liverpool John Moores University), Robin Walsh (Bournemouth University and Codes and Standards Lead (CUBO)) and Lee Rawlinson (Homes for Students).  

“Working collaboratively with the University – Supporting Students in Private Sector PBSA”. The panel discussed the importance of shared interests and strong communication between universities and accommodation providers.

Strand 2 – Knowing the Code

This strand began with An introduction to Government Approved National Codes for new staff, delivered by Jess Carrier & Vic Peckitt from Unipol Student Homes. They gave on overview of the history and importance of the three Government-approved Codes, a walkthrough of the content and concluded by taking attendees through some common areas of complaints received via the Code complaints process.

Two members of the National Code verification team – Beth Raine and Derek Goss – delivered the second part of the strand on what to expect during a verification visit, using the most common action points to illustrate best and preventative practice in these areas.

To conclude the strand, another member of the National Code verification team – Richard Lord – took attendees through key changes in health and safety through the Fire Safety Reforms and the key requirements in the Building Safety Act, citing critical new requirements to keep buildings safely maintained.

Everyone returned to the Compass Room for our final session of a jam packed day. Building a Successful Career in PBSA - an insightful panel discussion led by Rebecca O'Hare from the University of Leeds. Rebecca was joined by Richard Stott (Kexgill), James Gregory (The Management Recruitment Group), Jane Crouch (Fresh), Sam Hollex (Host)
James Gregory reported that 58% of The Management Recruitment Group (MRG)’s successfully appointed candidates in higher education and student accommodation sector last year were women.

Victoria Tolmie-Loverseed, Assistant CEO - Standards, Unipol Student Homes shared takeaways from the day:

There is no one size fits all in the sector; No one ‘student’. Providers and colleagues in HE must continue to react and adapt to the diverse and changing needs of students.

The cost of living and insufficient financial support is an ongoing concern for students. The student finance model needs to be reviewed.

97% of students say that they have felt lonely at uni. We must listen to students and promote inclusivity and community. There are simple things we can implement now.

The staff you have in your buildings have the biggest impact on the students’ experience and their wellbeing. Invest in, value and support your colleagues.

Click here to view images from the event.

Conference Agenda

Thursday 21st March 2024

9.30 – 10.00

Registration and networking

10.00 – 10.05


10.05 – 10.25

Keynote - Changing Students – Evolving the experience

10.25 – 10.50

Student numbers and PBSA demand in 2024

10.50 – 11.15

Student Minds

11.15 – 11.30

Coffee Break

11.30 – 12.00

Higher Education and the General Election 2024

12.00 – 12.25

Supporting Disabled Students in PBSA

12.25 – 12.45

Roundtable Discussion - dealing with requests for adaptations and how could that be improved?

12.45 – 13.25



Split for Strands


 Strand 1 - Supporting Students

 Strand 2 - Knowing the Code

13.25 – 14.05

  • Investors in Students – Gender and wellbeing of students (Equality/preference)
  • An introduction to the approved codes for new staff 

14.05 – 14.40

  • Social Programme Workshop – Enabling Community Building in PBSA
  • Inside the verification day

14.40 – 14.55


14.55 – 15.30

  • Working collaboratively with the University – Supporting Students in private sector PBSA
  • Changes to the Legislation – The Fire Safety Act and The Building Safety Act

15.35 – 16.05

Panel - Building a Successful Career in PBSA

16.05 – 16.15

Takeaways from the day




The Lowry

The event was held at The Lowry, Salford



Our exhibitors included:

Garrett Learning

Kinetic Software