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ASRA turns 21!

The Association of Student Residential Accommodation celebrates success at its 21stAnnual Conference in Birmingham. Poppy Humphrey reports

Posted by Rebecca Paddick | May 18, 2018 | Events

ASRA continues to develop what is recognised as the ‘Largest Student Accommodation Conference’ in the UK and Ireland, holding its annual event in Birmingham last month.

Taking place between 25th - 28thMarch, ASRA 2018 was a particularly special event, with the Association celebrating its 21stbirthday. Not only was this a cause for celebration but also reflected how the ASRA network has evolved significantly since it was established in 1997.  Now, with over 700 members representing 175 organisations, and affiliations with over 40 suppliers, the ASRA community continues to expand and remain at the forefront of the student accommodation sector.

Central to the ethos of ASRA is supporting members to provide the best possible student experience within an accommodation setting. ASRA provides such support via the annual conference, regional meetings held throughout the year and a heavily utilised JISC web mail network. This creates the ideal platform for accommodation practitioners to respond effectively to ever increasing student expectations.

The ASRA Conference enables accommodation providers and those working in university support services exceptional opportunities to evaluate methods, share experiences, update on new initiatives, and benchmark against other services. This is paramount to maintaining and raising standards in all sectors of student accommodation and enabling high levels of customer service to students at universities and colleges. 

Hot Topics

This year’s Conference discussions commenced with ‘Hot Topics’ which enabled delegates an early opportunity to share best practice, take advice from experienced practitioners, and simply to talk through challenges. Key topics that were ‘hot’ this year were mental health, Prevent, supporting LGBT students, estranged and care leavers, challenges of vacant rooms and student recruitment.

The formal opening of ASRA 2018 was hosted by Keynote Andy Whittaker. This trainer and bestselling author engaged delegates in discussions around ‘The Art of Being Brilliant’. This hugely engaging and energetic address set the tone for the succeeding two days of enthusiasm, discussions and learning.

Every year at Conference, delegates are invited to attended ASRA’s Annual General Meeting. The 21st AGM saw Karen Burke retain her title as ASRA Chair, with further newly elected Officers to the roles of Treasurer, Training Officer and IT and Communications Officer. From 2018 the ASRA Management Committee is supported by a team of newly elected regional representatives who hold a number of training and information events throughout the UK and Ireland each year.  

A Toolkit For Delivery

Delegates had the opportunity to take part in over 30 training sessions on a broad range of issues pertinent to the student experience within an accommodation setting, from which they could develop their own toolkit for delivery.

Training began with several Supplier Showcase sessions delivered by StarRez, Chapps® , Mercury RMS and Optify™ on a range of insightful topics. Campuslife and StudentCom hosted a theatrical session considering ‘Gen Z- How much do we really know?’The session looked at three key factors that impact student experience: Affordability- What is the true cost of university in 2018?; Mental Wellbeing- Why is mental health a key consideration for the students of today?; and Connectivity- How much do students really rely on modern technology to both live and study?

Following this, member led discussions were delivered on issues such as safeguarding, health and wellbeing, and cultural issues, as well as advice and support on legislative change such as the introduction of GDPR. Further sessions considered best practice on a wide array of themes such as Residence Life, resolving complaints, and effective accommodation management. Delegates were also provided with personal development opportunities by undertaking training on issues such as ‘unconscious bias’.

Global best practice was also on the menu, with Rebecca O’ Hare (Resident Life Manager, Campus Living Villages), presenting on award winning Residential Life programmes from America, Australia and New Zealand.

New Faces

For the first time, ASRA welcomed representatives from the National Union of Students (NUS) to talk about Alcohol Impact. This behaviour change programme encourages a responsible approach to alcohol consumption and provides practical tools for dealing with alcohol related challenges within an accommodation setting.

Supporting and promoting student mental health continues to be a sector wide priority in recent years and ASRA were delighted to nominate Student Minds as their chosen Charity for the Charity Raffle held during ASRA’s 21stcelebratory dinner. This charity focuses on early intervention, preventative approaches, and ongoing support for both those with and those supporting others with mental health issues. £1,435.00 was raised thanks to an array of prizes donated by ASRA suppliers (StudentPad, Crystal Services, Homes For Students, Sovereign Conference, Seven Seas Worldwide, Hilton Birmingham Metropole and Thomas Kneale & Co Ltd.).

Delegates had the opportunity to meet over 100 representatives at the exhibition supporting the event, including companies providing furniture, insurance services, building management services, soft furnishing, technology support systems, launderette services, and student advisory services.

Plans are already underway for the ASRA 2019 Conference which will be held at the Macdonald Aviemore Resort, Scotland between 7th-10th April 2019. 

For more information about upcoming ASRA national, regional events and membership visit www.asra.ac.uk

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