CUBO – Punching above its weight

Simon Westerman, Director of Commercial Services at the University of Kent, talks about the CUBO Conference this summer

This year’s CUBO Summer Conference will be held at The University of Kent at Canterbury on June 27, 28 and 29, where the hosts are determined to do different things and do things differently, as well as doing them in Kent.

After a great conference in Sussex, CUBO are keen to spread the word about our events and expand the reach of our audience. For the first time ever at a CUBO conference, Kent are planning to invite non-members to offer a taster of what CUBO has to offer. 

For those who are less familiar with CUBO, the association aims to provide solutions to common problems and concerns for mutual benefit; to promote appropriate quality standards and frameworks that help enhance the student experience and, where appropriate, demonstrate legal compliance against published codes of practice.

In recent years the association has considered the impact of the National Living Wage and the National Minimum Wage on low paid staff; compliance with the Universities UK Code of Conduct for student accommodation; changes to accommodation provision and aspirations of students following the introduction of £9k fees; benchmarking student accommodation in USA, Australia and the Middle East; raising the profile of green agendas in energy consumption and recycling; responding to the digital generation.  

What can those journeying to Canterbury expect? A programme with a range of elective sessions with members talking to members about topical issues both within their portfolio and the HE sector more widely. CUBO has already engaged some speakers from the sector who will ‘punch above their weight,’ a phrase often applied to CUBO members and their vast £2bn contribution to the UK economy, an increase of 31% over the last five years.  

 Both the main programme and the elective sessions will be held in the University’s new Sibson Building, using its state-of-the-art seminar rooms, lecture theatres and breakout room facilities. The Sibson Building is purpose built as the new academic centre for Kent Business School and the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Actuarial Science. This vibrant campus destination set in stunning grounds opened this January.


The CUBO exhibition will be held in the nearby sports centre and this will provide opportunities to showcase new products and services to the delegates, and the intention is to achieve a numerical high-water mark for those registering as delegates and exhibitors alike.       

Sport facilities will be available to conference delegates, including the use of the centre’s range of bicycles. Cycling opportunities will be arranged for anyone interested in venturing around the campus and beyond. Those taking up the optional offer of arriving early at the Conference will have an opportunity to join a tour of the historic Canterbury City. 

The University’s Arts Centre, Gulbenkian, will be host to some outstanding musical activities during the Conference while Kent Sport will be keen to encourage the delegates to take an early morning bike ride or cycle to the seaside through Blean Woods, one of the largest areas of ancient woodland in England, for one of the evening events.   

As a conference host it is important to review delegate feedback. A delegate survey from last summer’s Sussex conference showed the most popular reason given for attendance was networking followed by relevance to job and content. 88% agreed that the conference was a good use of their time and 84% were satisfied with the event. Apart from networking, consideration clearly has to be given to content and location as well as compelling reasons to attend. 

In a unique change for 2017, CUBO has agreed that Kent can waive annual first-year membership fees to those attending as their first engagement with CUBO, therefore operating as a taster for the opportunities that membership brings.

In October a personal invitation was sent to the CUBO primary member and similar post-holders in non-membership HEIs. 

It highlighted how Kent is going the extra mile to remove as many perceived barriers to attendance as possible, typically by enhancing transport links to local airports and stations and providing ‘meet and greet’ buses where appropriate.  

In November a further letter was dispatched inviting the delegates to contribute to the elective sessions either individually or as panel members and to cover conferencing, residential accommodation developments and funding, catering, sport, arts, digital technologies, staff rewards and structures, and all aspects of the portfolios covered by the members. The initial response to this letter has been very positive. 

Meanwhile speakers have been booked who will engage directly with delegates on topical issues for HE in general as well as picking up commercial themes. Additionally, all those on the platform have been invited, if not commanded, to ‘punch above their weight’, the theme of the conference. 

In line with doing things differently and doing different things, Kent has arranged two spectacular networking events on both evenings of the Conference, with the added possibility of cycling to the beach (but returning by coach late at night).

In summary, this summer’s Conference is going to be very special and is open not just to CUBO members but those from across the higher education sector who are engaged in the commercial and facilities operations of universities and colleges. This is an opportunity to punch above your weight which should not be missed. We are counting down the days…  

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