All in a year’s work

Karen Burke, Head of Accommodation Services for Sheffield Hallam University, reflects on her first years as ASRA Chair

My first year as Association for Student Residential Accommodation (ASRA) Chair has exceeded all my expectations, while being both challenging and enjoyable. Its challenges come with fitting in a job around my full-time role in SHU. I have had the critical support of my own manager, team and home support as well as the support of the committee who have been invaluable assets in providing me with support, guidance, enthusiasm and commitment. Having made the transition from Conference Officer to Chair I would like to recognise the support that the ASRA Management Committee provides to the role of Chair, especially during this first year with the Vice-Chair helping to steer me through the maze of meetings and introductions. 

The members of ASRA continue to support the association and it’s great to see members regularly posing questions on the mailbase and giving colleagues feedback. We also get support from a membership of over 700 in a variety of ways such as involvement in working parties, judging panels and training events. We are also working on a new website this year. It is an exciting project which will provide new functionality that will add extra benefit to our membership. We are looking forward to the results later in the year. 

All the Regional Representatives have been active in their meetings and they have all been well attended. Colleagues can let their rep know if there are areas of interest, training or new developments in the sector for future meetings. As regional roles are for a two-year period, we are always on the lookout for the next representative. It is a very rewarding role that can be an excellent development opportunity. It has also been great to have colleagues from private provider organisations as regional reps as this cements our ethos of inclusivity. 

It’s been amazing knowing that ASRA is recognised throughout the sector and can be involved and influence decision-making and challenging ideals and principles to ensure we move forward as an association

Conference planning is a cycle that never ends and planning for 2017 has been underway for some time now. It is fair to say that the Committee is always looking ahead and members’ comments and feedback is invaluable to ensure both the conference and regional events are what you as a membership need. 

We have always tried to keep our conferences in HE/FE venues but due to the changing nature of university business and increased participation from both delegates and exhibitors we now have to look further afield to meet our many needs.

Much of my time as Chair this past year has been spent continuing ASRA’s work on the management boards of both the UUK and ANUK/Unipol codes of practice, HEEAF (Higher Education Estates Association Forum). We are now on the British Property Federation Student Accommodation Committee which has expanded the role that ASRA plays in the sector.

This year sees changes in the management team as officers have departed the positions of Secretary, Training and Events Officers. Although this appears to be a mass exodus we have managed to stagger the end of terms to ensure better committee continuity in future. There has been a change of title from Conference Officer to Events Officer; this is a role that we decided needed to evolve so that it can provide a more cohesive relationship between the Training Officer and the regional roles.

It’s been amazing knowing that ASRA is recognised throughout the sector and can be involved and influence decision-making and challenging ideals and principles to ensure we move forward as an association. I would like to offer my thanks to everyone who has helped to support both myself and the Association over the past year as ASRA continues to increase its profile and becomes recognised both inside and outside of the sector. We are the largest, and most representative, member-led organisation in the field of student residential accommodation and I hope we can rely on colleagues’ support over the forthcoming year to further build on our position.

Read the ASRA 2016 Annual Conference review here

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