What is it like to be a Regional Representative for ASRA?

By Lisette Metcalfe, outgoing ASRA South East Rep and Student Housing Services Manager for Middlesex University

Being the Regional Rep is an excellent opportunity to be part of something really exciting and to help with the evolving shape of ASRA. You facilitate the regional meetings which provide colleagues within your region the opportunity to find out about what others are doing, discuss relevant issues, share best practice and, most importantly, it provides fantastic networking opportunities. 

You also get the chance to attend the management meetings where you can find out what’s new around the country and input into the strategic running of the Association. The ASRA conference is the highlight of the year and regional reps play an important role meeting and talking with new members to ensure they have a positive experience both at the conference and future regional meetings. They also assist at the AGM, counting votes and helping to facilitate the various seminars but still with ample opportunity for attending some of the fantastic training sessions and the all-important networking.

I have really enjoyed my two-and-a-half years as South East Rep, it has provided me with the chance to really get to know colleagues from around the region and build up a positive network of people I can turn to for help throughout the year. With the assistance from my own team and colleagues from member institutions and organisations, the regional meetings have been hosted by various institutions around the South East including UCL, Regents University, University of Kent, Queen Mary University of London and Middlesex University. We also visited a number of halls of residence along the way which gave great insight into the varied accommodation provided from traditional shared bathroom facilities to high-end studio flats, giving students a wide choice of price and experience.

“The big issues for everyone over the last couple of years have included an increase in the need for pastoral care, particularly in terms of student mental health and out-of-hours support, as well as the different forms of residence life provision.”

A full and varied agenda was organised for each meeting which included presentations on student life, welfare, accommodation design, resilience and student housing provision. There were also talks from various suppliers, giving information on furniture to food in a box to flooring, to name but a few. The business meeting is always a great platform for anyone to raise issues which invariably we find affects everyone providing student accommodation. The big issues for everyone over the last couple of years have included an increase in the need for pastoral care, particularly in terms of student mental health and out-of-hours support, as well as the different forms of residence life provision and how this can help to integrate students and ensure they have a great experience throughout their stay. For London universities in particular rent levels have been discussed in terms of affordability and how they can be kept within the London Mayor’s Housing recommendation for affordable student living. 

This is a really useful opportunity to discuss best practice and even if we can’t find perfect solutions it is good to know there are others dealing with similar issues and therefore a good resource for ideas and further discussion. The role is not too time-consuming as you only have to organise two regional meetings a year and, as mentioned, there are always other members willing to help with venues, catering and presentations. 

Then throughout the year there are committee meetings or meetings about student housing policies and upcoming changes in regulations. For example I recently attended the BPF (British Property Federation) Student Housing Committee, which is heavily involved in government policy such as new-build PBSA guidelines, HMO reforms and international student migration. I’ve really enjoyed my time as Regional Rep and would definitely recommend it to anyone involved in student accommodation, with roles becoming vacant every couple of years.  

If you are interested in ASRA and your institution is not currently a member, visit www.asra.ac.uk for further information.