By Alan Blackmore, Chief Operating Officer, Collegiate
The experience that students have when going to university is influenced by many things: the subject they choose to study, the lecturers they are presented with, the other people on their course and the social scene, to name a few. But what is more important when leaving home and branching out on your own for the first time than having a safe place to call your own?
Home is the bed rock for daily living. Whatever else is happening beyond those walls, home is the safe space that people can retreat to and be themselves.
In the past few years, we have seen student accommodation operators compete to have the ‘best’ facilities in their properties to attract students to an ‘aspirational’ lifestyle and charge premium rents – whether that be gyms, cinema rooms, steam rooms or glamping pods on site.
However, the last year has taught us all a lot about what’s really important to our lives and it’s not the latest gimmicks and high-tech facilities. It’s our wellbeing and the support we get through our community.
The focus has changed from the tangible to the less tangible benefits of student accommodation, such as the kindness of the staff, the services they provide as well as the general atmosphere and sense of community. Most of all it’s the elements that come together to provide wellbeing that are important to today’s student, such as:
Creating high-quality spaces where students feel at home when away from home. Designed with students in mind to create stand-out living and learning environments that enhance wellbeing and support studies.
For many students this is their first time away from home. Providing an after-care programme that provides them with an on-site listening ear to help with any problems they may be experiencing while away from home is a vital service.
Wellbeing and mental health support
Now more than ever, focusing on student wellbeing, mental health and security is crucial. This is not only to reassure parents that their child is being looked after, but most importantly to give students the best chance to succeed in their studies by ensuring they are healthy, happy and safe.
Throughout lockdown, where students chose to remain in their accommodation, the relationship with the building’s staff became essential where the normal avenues of support outside of the property were not available.
University life is meant to be fun and enjoyable, so having a range of fun, exciting and inclusive social events that are free to enjoy on and off site is essential to help build a community. From on-site activities such as movie nights or wellness days, using social spaces in the accommodation, to off-site events held at local venues or attractions nearby.
During lockdown, online social events such as exercise classes, cooking classes, or quiz nights were just as essential to promote mental wellbeing and encourage the coming together of a community.
These social events are what builds memorable moments for students and create a positive buzz around the building. Feeling part of a team or community enhances student confidence and inclusion no matter the race, gender or culture.
2020/21 has been a year like no other, with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic being felt strongly by all students. It has highlighted more than ever the student experience and the large role that accommodation providers play in affecting student wellbeing.
Here at Collegiate we have used our experience of the pandemic to make further improvements to student life and welfare – such as those above – and have also expanded our portfolio to provide spaces that our tenants want for a range of budgets they can afford. We now have 34 properties in the UK under a number of brands – including The Neighbourhood, Prima Vidae and Universe.City.
During the summer break, the post-pandemic student experience is the new reality that accommodation providers need to embrace to meet the need of their tenants for the coming academic year and beyond.