The 21st-Century student experience

Balancing academic, social and employment aspirations, by Kevin Williamson, University Partnership Manager, Unite Students

Last year UK universities welcomed over 510,000 first-year undergraduates. This September, with the removal of the student number cap, the government is predicting a 12% growth in student numbers and the student population to increase by 100,000 in the next three years. The big questions are where will students live and what do they want from their accommodation?

Traditionally first-year and international students live in university or purpose-built halls of residence, in shared flats of between two and 10 people with a kitchen area for socialising. Gone are the days of accommodation simply providing basic amenities, with students spending a lot of time in their accommodation, it is important that the environment meets their needs and provides a space in which they can flourish.

ABOVE: Stratford ONE, London

The Unite Students Insight Report (USIR 2015) highlighted Wi-Fi as the most important feature for students in their accommodation, closely followed by price and cleanliness, with nearly three quarters wanting modern and high-quality housing. Interestingly, whilst shared flats remain a popular choice, enquiries for studio flats have increased – studios offer en suite bathrooms, a private kitchen and an area to sleep and relax in.

Historically considered to be isolating, for today’s modern student they provide an independent way of living within the support and social network of a student community.

The two biggest issues students face are noise (56%) and getting on with flatmates (37%) (USIR 2015), coupled with the greater investment students are making in their education and increasing pressures to get the best possible qualifications, opting for a more independent living environment appears to be meeting  academic, social and employment aspirations.

As universities start to operate in an unrestricted environment and the sector continues to attract new providers to the market now is the time to look at students’ needs and ensure we are providing the best environment to ensure they get the most out of their time at university.

Download the research here:

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