Sodexo is a global market-leading services company and has been working in the higher education sector in the UK for over 50 years. At the heart of Sodexo’s offer is a focus on improving students’ quality of life and promoting a positive student experience.
Sodexo launched its Student Living by Sodexo offer in April 2013, recognising the significant shift in the student accommodation market. The offer brings together an extensive portfolio of services from marketing, bookings, lettings and finance management, student services such as pastoral care and helpdesk, through to facilities management including preventative and reactive maintenance, waste management, and commercial, catering and retail services.
The growth in private student accommodation and the rise in rents mean that students are now becoming more demanding about their digs. The 2016 edition of Sodexo’s University Lifestyle Survey, a biennial survey of over 2,000 students which tracks trends across all aspects of student life, revealed that 14% of students live in halls run by private companies, up from 9% in 2014. The survey also tracks the steady rise in rents over the last decade; 10 years ago just 10% of students paid more than £400 a month in rent, whereas 30% pay that now, with many paying much more.
Accordingly, having an en suite bathroom – once an unimaginable luxury for undergraduates – is now a ‘must-have’ for many students. When asked to select the five most important requirements for accommodation, 36% of students in university halls listed a private bathroom as their number one priority, ahead of high-speed Wi-Fi (26%) and having a place to study (18%).
In the last three years Sodexo has steadily built its portfolio of student beds to just under 10,000. Significant contract wins include Northumbria University (where Sodexo now manages over 3,000 beds), Rose Bruford College in Sidcup, London and St George’s Tower in Leicester. In March, Sodexo announced a £8m, six-year deal to manage all student accommodation at Northumbria University, Newcastle, extending a contract previously in place to manage its new Trinity Square accommodation.
Northumbria University, Newcastle, is a research-rich, business-focused, professional university with a global reputation for academic excellence. It is one of the largest universities in the UK and provides an outstanding student experience to almost 34,000 students from 131 countries. The University has invested more than £200m in its estate since 2005 to improve the student experience and in summer 2016, announced a further £52m investment to create outstanding new facilities, including a new Student Central zone around the library, and new buildings for students on Computing and Information Sciences and Architecture and Built Environment courses.
Sodexo’s focus on student experience and its strong understanding of students’ lives and lifestyles have been key to the company’s developments at Northumbria and more widely. Sodexo has several initiatives in place to make sure that its services for students are built on the latest insight and are focused on improving students’ quality of life.
Key among these are the student experience managers Sodexo provides at all major contracts. As the people who manage Sodexo’s relationship with students on campus, Sodexo’s student experience managers play a vital role in helping deliver great service on the ground. Tom Martin, student experience manager at Northumbria’s Trinity Square is a good example, with responsibility for everything from welcoming and settling in the new intake in September, running activities and events, maintaining facilities and acting as a pastoral point of contact for students who have health and wellbeing concerns.
Strategic director for Sodexo’s Universities business Peter Taylor comments: “With our in-depth knowledge of the student market and focus on student experience, we feel we are offering something new and quite different to the other providers in the market. Student Living by Sodexo has really gained momentum in the last three years and recent deals have cemented Sodexo’s position as a leading service provider in the market.
“As students are faced with rising fees and increased costs of living, they are looking for a first-class university experience. That means everything from quality accommodation to the latest e-learning tools, to more face-to-face time with tutors and innovative social spaces. The onus for service providers like Sodexo is on providing creative solutions that recognise students’ needs and seek to improve their quality of life.”
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