CUBO 2016, ‘Tomorrow’s World’ in HE

CUBO’s annual summer conference discussed the future challenges facing college and university business officers

Taking place at the University of Sussex in June, this year’s College and University Business Officers (CUBO) Summer Conference discussed and debated the future challenges facing UK higher education, with a focus on health and fitness, food sustainability, living better and looking to the future. 

CUBO is the professional association for senior managers in higher education whose responsibilities include the strategic development, management and administration of an institution’s commercial business.

“The future looks set to bring another series of changes in HE,” said CUBO chair Emma Furnival. “The higher education White Paper aims to put in place a more accessible, accountable and competitive higher education system but will undoubtedly bring further challenges for those of us delivering services to students.”

This year’s conference title was no doubt inspired by its host, Kate Bellingham. With her engineering background and a degree in physics, Kate spent four years presenting Tomorrow’s World, the BBC’s flagship science and technology programme. 


One of the stand-out sessions of the conference was an inspirational talk by Colin Jackson CBE. The much-loved former sprint and hurdling athlete described to delegates the ups and downs of a pro athlete, and also detailed his own personal struggle to become a world champion. He also highlighted the importance of universities encouraging their students to get into sports. “Fitness is one of the few things in life where if you put 100% effort in, you get 100% results back,” he said.

The event’s main sponsor Balfour Beatty then took to the stage for an interesting presentation on the future of partnership arrangements between universities and private sector investors.  The session also revealed more details on Sussex’s East Slope redevelopment, which will accommodate 2,000 new bedrooms as well as a new building for the Students’ Union.

The world of higher education is an exciting area in which to work/study/play, and we’ll continue to meet and bring inspired people together in forums like this, to ensure CUBO remains at the cutting edge 

After a quick break, and some much-needed re-fuelling provided by the fantastic Chartwells, Cat Fletcher, a waste-prevention consultant working with Brighton and Hove City Council, took to the stage. Cat’s passionate talk was full of sobering statistics on how much waste we, as a nation, send to landfill. She also stressed the importance of getting students involved in sustainability initiatives on campus. Cat then told us about the Brighton Waste House, an innovative building which uses over 85% ‘waste’ material drawn from household and construction sites, including 20,000 old toothbrushes.

Cat’s talk was followed by a lively session from Chartwells’ Executive Chef Andrew Walker. Andrew is renowned for his theatre cookery performances showcasing weird and wonderful taste combinations, but his talk at CUBO was very much highlighting the need for a back-to-basics approach in university catering. When asked how can HE cater to all tastes and satisfy a diverse student body, Andrew explained that the majority of people will be satisfied with old classics, providing they are planned properly, executed well, and contain the very best ingredients. “I truly believe that people today would prefer less choice, but better quality. They want great food done well, and students are no different,” he said.

CUBO favourites such as the University of Kent’s Simon Westerman, Southampton Solent’s Bryan Carroll and Campuslife’s Simon Horniblow and Tom White also took to the stage later in the day. Hear more from them in our next issue of UB, out in August. 

At the end of the second day, it was time for the annual CUBO Awards. Find out more about the winners here.

The event featured a number of top exhibitors from the higher education sector. Commenting on this year’s CUBO event, Ben Berry, Managing Director, The StudyBed Company, said:’CUBO is always an excellent event for us, and this year was no exception, enhanced by a wonderfully warm and well-organised reception from Sussex University staff.’ 

Martin Hadland, Commercial Director UK, Campus Living Villages, added: ‘As an exhibitor, the CUBO conference provides an excellent opportunity to network with new contacts and catch up with our existing university partners. With CLV growing so rapidly we were delighted to be able to talk to attendees about our latest work with the University of St. Andrews, where we are about to unveil 324 beds and begin the construction of a further 196 beds in the Fife Park residences, near the University. I look forward to talking through our future developments and plans at next year’s event.’  

Summing up this year’s conference and awards, Martin Chalker, Director of Estates and Services at the University of Sussex, said: “The world of higher education is an exciting area in which to work/study/play, and we’ll continue to meet and bring inspired people together in forums like this, to ensure CUBO remains at the cutting edge.”

Next year the CUBO baton is passed to the University of Kent. In the meantime, we’ll be getting ready for CUBO’s Winter conference, held this year at Brunel UniversitySee you there!           

Make sure you read CUBO’s regular column in every issue of our monthly magazine.

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