The concept of Residence Life is gathering great pace across institutions with CUBO membership, and without doubt it is really adding value to the overall student experience.
CUBO have recently taken the initiative to set up the forum to share knowledge on Residence Life. David McKown, Head of Training and Quality at The University of Sheffield and CUBO Lead for Learning and Development, commented: “The first forum was extremely well received and an average rating of ‘excellent’ was achieved on the post-event evaluation forms.
“The forum was designed and put together with the support of Residence Life teams from the University of Edinburgh, The University of Sheffield and The University of Exeter.”
A whole range of topics were put under the spotlight during the day, and the roundtable discussions that followed each introductory presentation resulted in an excellent exchange of thoughts and ideas.
Neil Harrison, Residence Life Advisor from the University of Exeter, presented at the forum on Operating Structures and Models for Residence Life. Neil commented: “Each institution’s residential support provision occupies a niche at the intersection of a range of other services and structures within that institution, and thus each model will assume its own unique combination of responsibilities. Common themes include welfare and pastoral matters, disciplinary functions, enhancing the student experience, and security; but in this area one size does not fit all, and understanding the context in which the model operates is essential when developing and enhancing provision.”
Another very useful part of the day was a session on the selection and induction for Residential Assistants who are key to the success of Residence Life within the institution. Residential Assistants, or Mentors as they are known in Sheffield, are roles that are taken on by students within the residences to support those living within the accommodation. The role may include designing events, promoting engagement and building communities, in addition to helping students through difficult times.
This session was presented by Dr Ela Nutu Hall, Residence Life Manager at the University of Sheffield. Ela outlined the key steps involved in recruitment and selection, followed by the essential induction and training programmes that are required. Delegates had the opportunity to discuss various interviewing techniques and training programmes for Residential Assistants.
As Residence Life is a developing area in the UK, having a significant number of universities benchmarking through a standard system such as Skyfactor’s would be incredibly valuable
Following this session, Ian Jones, Head of Accommodation Services at The University of Sheffield, presented and led discussion groups on the subject of benchmarking Residence Life with a focus on tools such as ‘Skyfactor’ – a suite of assessments, designed to measure the impact of the Residence Life experience. Ian commented: “As Residence Life is a developing area in the UK, having a significant number of universities benchmarking through a standard system such as Skyfactor’s would be incredibly valuable. The ability to know where our programmes stand in comparison to institutions at home and around the world, to easily see what is working best and where, and to have an indication of where to concentrate our efforts to maximum effect, is gold dust as we look to improve our student experience.”
Cheryl Hutton, Residence Life Coordinator at The University of Edinburgh, led a very useful discussion that focused on events, activities and engagement. This proved to be a very useful session with delegates sharing ideas and experiences in addition to looking at challenges around engagement.
Richard Kington, Director, Accommodation Services at The University of Edinburgh, shared his experiences on Residence Life across the world and outlined the opportunities of learning from Acuho-I (The Association of Colleges and Universities Housing Officers – International). Richard commented: “Learning from others across the globe, who have decades of experience in delivering great Residence Life to support the student experience, is essential. And membership of Acuho-I is a must for anyone in the UK who aspires to developing Residence Life in their institution.”
Talking about the experiences of Edinburgh he continued: “With the knowledge, networks and access to huge amounts of information and resources that are available to anyone within a member’s organisation, becoming a member of Acuho-I is proving to be invaluable.”
CUBO are now planning the next phase of knowledge sharing that will support institutions with Residence Life initiatives.