ASRA Regional Meetings, why would I attend?

ASRA is run for its members by its members. How do you get your voice heard in shaping the association? ASRA’s Alison Spencer explains all

Your region has two meetings a year, usually November and June. They provide an opportunity to network with other accommodation providers and find out how things are being done elsewhere. It is a platform for sharing best practices and finding out the tried and tested solutions to what is usually a trending issue across the sector. Your regional representative provides feedback from these regional meetings to the ASRA Management Committee, which helps to inform the theme and training requirements for the conference.

The meetings are hosted by a member organisation and usually comprise an overview on accommodation provision at that organisation followed by a training slot which your regional representative aims to tailor to the region’s needs. In the afternoon there is opportunity for informal discussions followed by an open forum where you can ask your questions. At the last south-west regional meeting, kindly hosted by the University of Bristol, we had two presentations; one on bedding packs by a local supplier and one on how Bristol University does e-induction; and an open forum where we discussed open days, changes in legislation (especially disabled student allowance), charitable organisations (unwanted belongings left in accommodation and what to do with them), types of tenancies, deposits and checking out, and the allocating processes.

ABOVE: Alison Spencer says that the regional meetings have proved invaluable in carrying out her role at the University of St Mark & St John, Plymouth

Having been a member of ASRA for the past 20 years I can truly say from experience that I find the regional meetings invaluable for me in carrying out my role at the University of St Mark & St John in Plymouth. I always leave the regional meetings feeling relieved that I am doing it right!

‘It is a platform for sharing best practices and finding out the tried and tested solutions to what is usually a trending issue across the sector’

During busy times around the A-level results when accommodation applications are stacking up on my desk, I think “there must be an easier way to do this”. Alas, from talking to you I realise there is no easier way but at least I know I am not alone. Should someone find one then I am sure it will come to light at a regional meeting, get fed back to the management committee, rolled out at conference and shared among us.

I have often had conversations with colleagues across the sector at regional meetings where many questions arise e.g.

        How do you engage with your residents to be more energy aware and recycle?

        How do you help residents manage their student loan when they have rent to pay and its fresher’s week?

        How do you encourage residents to live harmoniously when they can’t stand each other?

This is when I realise that we do more than just allocate a student to a bed. We have a responsibility to generate an income for our organisation whilst providing a great experience for our customers – an often difficult balance to strike. But it is those informal discussions that come in handy as I can find out tried and tested methods to deal with the many issues facing us and can return to my job armed with ideas and solutions which can only improve the service I am providing.

My advice to ASRA members

        A: Get Active and involved– attend your regional meetings

        S: Use the regional meetings to Share experiences – you never know who could have the answer you are looking for!

        R: ASRA is a Resource – there is a wealth of knowledge and experience at your fingertips.

        A: This will help you to Achieve success for the accommodation service at your organisation.

Any member who is interested in hosting their next regional meeting should get in touch with their regional reps. I hope to see many of you at the next south-west regional meeting in November.

W: www.asra.ac.uk

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