From campus to community

Discover why Manchester Student Homes feels it offers a unique approach to supporting students off campus

Jointly managed by the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University, Manchester Student Homes provides a free housing service and off-campus support to students across Manchester. MSH works closely with the University of Salford, the Manchester College and the Royal Northern College of Music, and students at these HE organisations can also access the service.

MSH runs an accreditation scheme for student accommodation providers and has over 20,000 bed spaces across the city. All providers have agreed to abide by a code of standards and to work proficiently in resolving any issues that may arise throughout the tenancy. In addition, MSH offers two further levels of accreditation: The A Plus Standard and The International Friendly Standard. 

The criteria for accredited accommodation succeeds what is recommended in the private rented sector, and for each property providers must demonstrate correct certification and any relevant licences. At least 10% of registered properties are inspected each year by the housing case worker who also investigates code compliance issues. 

Impartial advice

Students can access MSH’s services through several means. MSH is nestled in the centre of off-campus activity in South Manchester and hosts an online property search facility. Further, MSH runs weekly housing surgeries, termly find-a-home events, and annual accommodation fairs. MSH also offers impartial housing advice and free contract checks, among other services, even if the provider is not accredited.

MSH works closely with its accredited providers to ensure that students receive the best experience possible while living off-campus. MSH established the Landlord Working Party and holds an annual Landlord Forum at which providers review developments in the HE sector and explore how best to tailor their provision of accommodation to the changing student. Many of MSH’s providers also carry out volunteering in the local community.

Is that all? Well, as Cooper Healey, manager of MSH recalls, “MSH began life as an accreditation scheme and, over time, the remit has grown organically to encompass community issues. MSH has a commitment to supporting students living in the local community and leads the ‘Halls2Home’ campaign, which is designed to help students transition from living in halls of residence to their own homes.”

This programme offers a series of educational campaigns on thematic policy areas including safety, and waste and recycling. The events take place both on and off campuses and are delivered by the off-campus student affairs officer, community cohesion graduate interns and student community advisors, from the University of Manchester and Manchester Metropolitan University.

The fundamental aim of this programme is to educate students on being ‘a good neighbour’ and to alert them to the mixed and diverse community that is Manchester. Additionally, MSH plays an active role in supporting members of the local community through attending residents’ meetings and inviting students to get to know their neighbours at community events.

Key partnerships

Partnership work is essential to MSH who regularly works with Manchester City Council, Greater Manchester Police, and colleagues across the universities. It is this combined approach that facilitates the effective management of off-campus affairs through multi-agency visits to student properties, attendance of strategy and operational meetings, and the delivery of targeted work. 

Each year at the University of Manchester, a selection of students undertake academic research and provide market intelligence on key issues pertinent to the student experience. More widely, MSH is a Hate Crime Third Party Reporting Centre and is an elected member of the Independent Advisory Group which works to improve the quality of policing services to communities. 

MSH’s remit transcends national and international boundaries through the work undertaken as part of the International Town Gown Association (ITGA) and the United Kingdom Town Gown Association (UKTGA), which was founded, and is chaired, by Cooper. Both associations support a network of off-campus practitioners, officers from local authorities, university colleagues, and academics who work to understand and strengthen Town Gown relations. MSH recently coordinated the UKTGA Conference held at Queen’s University Belfast in November 2018.