A home away from home

Published on : 2/26/19
  • Attending a university can be one of the most stressful challenges of a young person’s life.

    Northumbria University is based in the heart of Newcastle upon Tyne and has a global reputation for academic excellence. The university is among the top ten schools in the UK for professional employment and has invested substantially in its academic buildings and campus accommodations to ensure students have an outstanding experience.

    For students, attending a university can be one of the most stressful challenges of a young person’s life. Navigating a new city, sharing housing with strangers, taking rigorous classes, and developing new social relationships can seem daunting. These uncertainties can translate into poor grades, poor class attendance, feelings of isolation, health concerns and potentially an increased drop-out rate.

    Without a comprehensive strategy to address these challenges, the student and the university don’t build the connection that can support the student through their university experience. Northumbria was looking for a facilities management partner who could enhance the student experience, address students’ needs and maintain maximum occupancy levels.

    Strategies and services to help students succeed both academically and socially

    We designed a student experience program, Student Living by Sodexo, that went beyond simply managing facilities. It employed strategies and services to help students feel at home and succeed both academically and socially.

    Firstly, Student Living matched students with the right roommate(s), with a flat-mate finder system that guided students through a matching process. Then, using social media we invited students to meet with each other before starting university. They could then build relationships before they arrived, making the transition much less stressful.

    Once on campus, some students needed support in developing skills to help them live independently. Once again, Student Living by Sodexo was there to help students bridge that transition, with cooking classes taught by our chefs to help students gain basic cooking knowledge. Many students were just learning to manage money on their own, so we offered budgeting classes to help students grow their financial acumen.

    Helping students feel at home didn’t just make them happy…

    We recognised that preparing students for university life before they arrived was fundamental to ensuring that students felt welcome and ready for independent living. Residency Living Manager Tom Martin said: “They spend more time in their accommodation than they do in their institutions…we have an opportunity to model and mould our residents to learn, to educate, to understand, to be independent and better people.”

    According to Damon Kent, director of campus services at Northumbria, helping students feel at home didn’t just make them happy, it kept them returning to on-campus accommodations for a second, third and fourth year, increasing retention rates: “Most students in the UK tend to go to private accommodation in their second and third year, but we’re seeing an increase in students wanting to stay in university-managed accommodation.”

    Sacha Russel, a third-year nursing student, agreed that our services and amenities kept students coming back. “After my first year at Trinity Square, I decided to renew my tenancy and stay for an additional year. It’s in a very convenient location with great amenities. The entire staff makes an effort to get to know students, including management. Security is onsite 24/7 making Trinity Square a very safe place to live.”

    Download the full case study.