Sodexo’s global view

The company’s International Student Lifestyle Survey reveals global student accommodation trends

Students in Sheffield, Seville or Shanghai experience university life very differently, but despite these differences, accommodation (its cost, location and services provided) universally plays an important role in defining student experience. Sodexo’s first International Student Lifestyle Survey polled over 4,000 students in six countries (the US, China, India, Spain and Italy, as well as the UK) on the four stages of the student journey, from pre-arrival, arrival, living and departure. 

Here are some of the key accommodation and student experience trends it uncovered:

Location and accommodation are vital to decision-making

When asked about the non-academic factors that influenced their choice of university, 41% of students referenced the importance of good transport links, 30% wanted to live away from the parental home but close enough for parental support, 30% referenced the cost of accommodation, and 28% wanted to be able to live at home. The look and feel of a university campus is still important to students globally. An attractive campus was the most important ‘environmental’ factor when choosing a university – named by 37% of students. 

The top three types of accommodation were ‘At home with parents/ family’ (31%), ‘Privately let flats/houses’ (20%), and ‘University run self-catered flats or houses on or near campus (10%). Clearly this was influenced very much by the norms of the university system in each of the countries. Living at home was especially common in Spain (56%) and Italy (55%); whilst Chinese students are most likely to live in university accommodation where living on campus is often mandatory.

Students rely on the bank of mum and dad

Accommodation is most likely to be paid for by parents – over half (53%) of the students surveyed said this – although, again, there were big differences depending on the norms of the country. Parents are an important secondary customer in accommodation, either by providing the accommodation or having a final say in accommodation choice as the person paying the rent.

Indian students are happier than their European counterparts

In terms of overall satisfaction with accommodation, India topped the table with 81% of students expressing satisfaction with their living arrangements. Spanish and Italian students, many of whom live in the parental home, were least satisfied. 

More work, less play when it comes to university services

The top three services that students worldwide had in their accommodation were Wi-Fi (76%), a launderette (62%) and security (58%). Social space and sports facilities were a lot less common – only a third (32%) had social space (i.e. a café or bar), 29% had a gym and a quarter had a multi-use outside games area.

In terms of the facilities and services students wanted, the most popular overall was good IT and study facilities, cited by 38%. The second was good social facilities (named by 32%) and thirdly, financial support (in the form of bursaries/ sponsorships, etc.) which was a deciding factor for 29% of students. 

Support services and students’ concerns

When asked about support services, half of students said they wanted to learn how to deal with stress, while another third wanted to learn mindfulness. Time and money management, career preparedness and study skills were also mentioned by almost half. 

Whilst most students felt they were well-supported in dealing with issues related to their studies (62% said so), just over a third (35%) felt that their university would support them with issues relating to their accommodation.

Steve Hawkins, European Director, Student Living by Sodexo, said: “Despite some global commonality, students in different markets have different outlooks, motivations, experiences and concerns. 

“It is therefore vital that we continuously listen to students, explore best practice worldwide and share our insights with clients and stakeholders, so we can, with them, enhance every step of the student journey – from students’ choice of university to their departure to the professional world.”  

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