Futureproofing ASRA

ASRA Chair, Karen Burke, outlines how officers working in student accommodation will continue to be supported

So when asked to write an article for University Business magazine I thought long and hard about what has been happening over the last few months. I considered our 21st birthday celebrations this year and how we have kept up the momentum and interest of our members.

What I noticed at the ASRA (Association for Student Residential Accommodation) 21st annual conference in March was that I must be getting old as many of the members are looking younger.

One of the most popular events at every conference are the new members’ session, which gives delegates the opportunity to speak to the ASRA management team. These sessions also enable new members to come together and this is very often where ‘pen pals’ within the sector are formed. Indeed, I remember my very first conference and the colleagues I met who I am still in touch with to this day and how valuable this is on both a personal and professional level  

When thinking of futureproofing an organisation, I thought about areas that we look to for the success of ASRA:

Utilise networks

Our network is ever expanding. We now have approximately 800 members. We get many requests for ASRA members to be involved in regional meetings, training requests or simply reaching out for guidance and support from other members on a broad range of issues. We realise that for us to continue to succeed, feedback and knowledge exchange are critical to keeping it fresh and relevant.

Change the thinking

Contribution of the membership has always been seen as one of our strengths and we continue to challenge how we do this and our methods for effective communication. Social media as a tool has moved us forward and even technophobes like me enjoy using Twitter… Although I still need to remember less is more.

Karen Burke

Widen trend watching

We are all aware of the importance accommodation plays for institutions when recruiting students. Our members are ideally placed to identify what our customers are looking for, and this can change very quickly. We must consider student needs and wants whether it is broadband speed, cinema rooms or back to basics in cheap, cheerful and affordable rooms. We can ask each other what is the next big thing and how will it affect our business.

Our customer base 

Which of course is our members – there are lots of changes in the higher education/ further education sector and we need to encourage more colleagues to become members. We have recently changed our membership listing to ensure an institution or company can list as many members as they wish. This ensures that a greater amount of colleagues working within the sector can benefit from our messages, questions, updated legal issues and the knowledge that there is someone else out there to ask for advice and support.

Changes over the past few years have seen the extension of opportunities for representatives within our management team roles that are not just limited to HE/FE members. This has brought fresh ideas to the table.

At conference, we asked our members for approval to increase the Regional Representatives term from two years to three. We believe this gives representatives more of a feel for the role and what the next step could be, it is also more beneficial for personal development.

The Chair, Treasurer and Secretary roles have been identified as ones that we cannot simply pass the baton on to without some guidance for the next in line. Mentoring for the successors can take up to a year to ensure we have the continuity and confidence in moving the association forward. We believe these changes and the key principles listed above will ensure officers working in student accommodation will continue to be supported by ASRA for the next 21 years and beyond. 

For more, please visit www.asra.ac.uk #wearetheaccommodationpeople! #ASRAForLife

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