Partnerships – marriages made in heaven
Geoff Pringle, newly-appointed Chair of Campus Living Villages' University Partnerships group, discusses his new 'post-retirement' role
When universities form partnerships with external providers – it cannot be underestimated how big that decision is. In most cases, it’s much longer than a few years – in some instances it can last up to fifty. That is more than most marriages.
And as with any marriage, happiness and success are dependent on strong communication, understanding and mutual respect for each other’s goals. Businesses and universities working together is a two-way partnership.
External providers must get into the mind of the sector; what is important to students and universities? Recruiting students is a highly competitive business and accommodation can play an important role in maintaining customer satisfaction and attracting new students. Working in a true partnership and understanding a university’s objectives can ensure that each business is fully aligned.
People generally only go to university once in their life. Not only is it a significant transition from home life into university, but it is often at the point when a young person is maturing into an independent adult. During this pivotal time, all partnerships need to take into account issues that could affect that person, for example; mental health, social isolation and debt.
Alarmingly, mental health research carried out recently by the student accommodation provider found that almost half of the 2,000-plus respondents didn’t know where to go for help with their mental health at university or in their halls.
Developing a strategy and close communication between partners could reduce this issue. Campus Living Villages is committed to working with its partners and upskilling its workforce to be more aware of making a positive difference to mental health. Several of its workforce have become mental health first aiders and guest talks take place that discuss changing our perspective on workplace mental health.
This is supplemented with Campus Living Villages’ Residential Life programme (called Village Life) for residents, including specific events aimed at improving wellbeing, like visits from Guide Dogs UK to its villages.
Campus Living Villages’ focus on student welfare doesn’t stop at mental health awareness. They invest significantly in the Village Life program with dedicated employees aimed at ensuring a positive social experience for the student from arrival and throughout their stay. Being a global company this also opens up international opportunities for its residents, for example through its established Go Explore programme, where students can travel to other parts of the globe staying in free accommodation.
Mental health research carried out recently by the student accommodation provider found that almost half of the 2,000-plus respondents didn’t know where to go for help with their mental health at university or in their halls
It’s all key to creating a memorable experience its residents will never forget as part of their University journey. After working within the university sector for decades, including roles with the University of Birmingham and Exeter University, I firmly believe that I’ve got something that I can still offer for this sector – one that’s ever-increasing in importance for the UK economy.
As chair of the University Partnerships group, I will work with Campus Living Villages to ensure that they can continue to innovate, improve and better support its university partners to achieve its goals.
The university sector is not new to challenging or changing times and as we find ourselves in a changing political spectrum which includes the impact of Britain exiting the EU, a renewed discussion on university fees and the introduction of the TEF. I want to assist Campus Living Villages, a company which has global exposure, in understanding how these changes may impact universities and how as a supportive partner we can continue to provide welcoming homes for students to be successful in their studies.
Everyone involved has to be fleet of foot to a maturing sector and an ever-changing world.