The annual survey of students in higher education across the UK, carried out by independent market research agency Red Brick Research, showed that less than half (47%) of students in university accommodation felt they had a strong sense of community where they live, with just under 4 in 10 (39%) of those in private halls and only a third (33%) of those in private rented accommodation feeling the same.
Fewer than two-thirds (65%) of students said they had formed close friendships with those they currently live with, and fewer than half (44%) of those living in halls believe that they will share future accommodation with one of their current hall mates. The daily ritual of eating together fared no better either, with 1 in 4 students saying they never cook with others or share cooking.
Tim Daplyn, Managing Director of Red Brick Research said: “We’ve seen a steady decline in students’ sense of community and social cohesion since we began measuring in 2011. While forming lasting friendships in your accommodation was once the norm and a rite of passage for students, the increasing prevalence of en-suite accommodation and studio flats has left students more isolated than before.
“We’ve also seen an increasing focus on academic achievement since the introduction of increased tuition fees, and a desire to get the most out of the university experience which leaves less time for relaxation and casual social interaction.”
The NSHS, which allows participating institutions to measure their performance against national and regional benchmarks, has prompted universities to address these concerns.
Hilary Simmons – Head of Colleges & Student Life at Lancaster University, winners of the best halls of residence in the 2014 NSHS survey, added: “While students are very focused on their academic work, Lancaster’s collegiate setup is well placed to respond to changes in student expectations – we are proud of our community feel and continually seek to protect and enhance it. The College and Accommodation teams are committed to building solid communities for our students to live in, and with our unique culture of volunteering, easy access to tutors and the careful design of the campus and accommodation, Lancaster has built its reputation on being both inclusive and academically excellent.”