Unite Students launches a national commission on the Living Black at University report with the aim of improving the experiences of black students living in UK student accommodation. The commission is designed to support the higher education and private student accommodation sectors’ responses to its recently published Living Black at University report. The initiative aligns with the company’s strong emphasis on social impact and commitment to ‘providing opportunities for all’ detailed in its Sustainability Strategy, which was published last year.
The commission, convened and supported by Unite Students, will be chaired by Professor Lyiola Solanke, Professor of European Union Law and Social Justice, and Dean of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, at the University of Leeds. She is also the founder of the Black Female Professors Forum.
“At every level of education – including university level – a safe home environment is crucial to student success. By making a concerted effort to embed the report’s recommendations into the foundations of purpose-built student accommodation, we will move closer to ensuring that all black students benefit from a context in which they can achieve their potential at university and in society.”Professor Lyiola Solanke, Chair of the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University
Joining her are commissioners selected from key national organisations including Unipol, Advance HE and Student Minds, and professional bodies including the Association for Student Residential Accommodation (ASRA), College and University Business Officers (CUBO) and Association of Managers of Student Services in Higher Education (AMOSSHE).
The commission also involves two projects of national significance: Newcastle University’s Race Equality Charter initiative, and London South Bank University’s Office for Students (OfS) funded project on the mental health of black students. The Office of the Independent Adjudicator is supporting work on complaints resolution.
Announced in February 2022, the report found that 54% of black students had experienced some form of racism whilst living in UK student accommodation, and three-quarters reported some level of impact on their mental health as a result. The report produced ten recommendations to improve the experiences of black students living in UK accommodation, and the commission will take action at the national level to support institutions and accommodation providers to embed the recommendations locally.
“The Living Black at University research we commissioned from Halpin Partnership showed that black students have a poorer experience than their white peers in student accommodation, and that this negatively affects their wider student experience. This is clearly unacceptable, and I believe it is an issue we can, and must, address.”Jenny Shaw, Higher Education External Engagement Director at Unite Students
The commission will meet every two months for the next 12 months, and will focus on improving the experience for black students. The commission’s work will include:
- Socialising the findings and recommendations of the research, creating an appetite for change.
- Embedding the Living Black at University report recommendations into relevant standards and codes.
- Embedding the recommendations into national training and professional development programmes.
- Finding opportunities within existing national data collection initiatives to track the effectiveness of efforts to improve the student accommodation experience for black students.
- Drawing on pilot projects and complementary research to develop and share good practice guidance and examples across the sector.
“Student accommodation does not exist in a vacuum. Universities can and must do more to ensure that black students feel seen, heard and safe. The push to decolonise the curriculum must be replicated across other areas of the university experience, especially accommodation, which is so crucial to student success.”Professor Lyiola Solanke, Chair of the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University