Published by Becky Freeman
Posted on 20th May 2021
With the past two academic years for university students being significantly disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, there is finally hope that this coming September some normality will resume thanks to the seemingly successful vaccine roll-out programme that commenced at the beginning of this year.
But will student life resume as we knew it pre-pandemic, and how are universities and the student accommodation sector preparing for the return of students in their droves to university towns and cities? We chat to Matthew Loughlin, Group Development Director at Unite Students, as he shares his thoughts when it comes to the future of student accommodation going forward, ensuring a fulfilling student experience in a post-pandemic UK, and working with us here at Lanview…
The student accommodation sector was experiencing significant growth prior to the pandemic- how has the last year impacted on it?
The sector has/will be impacted for around 18 months- from the Summer term 2020, right through to this coming September. With universities not being open to full lectures and face to face learning, only a proportion of students have occupied their accommodation and for those that have, with local and national restrictions, they have not been able to enjoy the full university experience of socialising away from their parents.
I’m confident that the demand for student accommodation will return to where it was and even see growth over the next 5 years. Interestingly we have reached to end of the decline in 18 years olds in the UK and by 2025 there will be another 250,000 18 year olds, boosting the domestic demand.
The pandemic has clearly impacted the number of international students able to access UK universities, but the UK has always been a desirable study destination, so when travel opens up once more, we should see a return to similar numbers.
How has student accommodation now been adapted (if at all) for a post-Covid world? Has anything been changed or implemented in designs going forward to encourage students to return to campus and ensure wellbeing and peace of mind?
The design and structure of student accommodation in the long term won’t change as a result of Covid, it is only short term measures that have needed to be implemented to protect our students and staff. We have made all our properties ‘Covid secure’ and will continue to do so as necessary.
We have been fortunate that the design of our buildings has facilitated the isolation of small groups or individuals where necessary (each flat being designed for between 4 and 10 students, allowing the isolation of a single flat where an outbreak occurs).
We were already focused on the wellbeing of our students but this has been enhanced further over the pandemic, where some students faced greater isolation and the loss of opportunities to create new relationships.
Do you think it’s possible for Universities to return to the same ‘buzz’ and student experience as before the pandemic?
I hope so, and I think it can return, as in reality the majority of students want the whole social experience and living away from home and parents, even if some lectures remain online. As the leading student accommodation provider, our teams are focused on ensuring we enhance this experience creating a ‘Home for Success’.
Can you tell us about Unite’s relationship with Lanview, and how it has developed over the years? Any upcoming projects with Lanview that you’re able to share?
I’ve worked with Lanview for 25 years (Sainsbury’s and Ikea) and they’ve always delivered on time and on budget and with a ‘can do’ attitude. When it comes to Unite’s relationship with Lanview, a stand-out project for me is Battery Park, which was a turnkey project from a developer. Lanview stepped in when the developer was failing to deliver the fit-out for common internal areas and communal spaces, in challenging circumstances and on budget. They also worked on the fit-out for our corporate offices in Bristol which delivered a new, collaborative way of working for our teams. Once again they did a great job, delivering within tight timeframe and to the highest of standards.
We’re currently in talks with them on a number of projects, including the refit for our Unite offices in London, refurbishment projects in Manchester, and another project in London. We enjoy working with Lanview for a number of reasons- the quality of their work is excellent, they’re great guys who are easy to work with, they have the ‘usability factor’, they’re trustworthy and they deliver consistently on time. I’m looking forward to working with them in the years ahead. Watch this space!
And finally… a lighthearted one… What was your accommodation like when you were a student?! (if you were a student of course) Anything you feel nostalgic for, or glad to see the back of?!
Unfortunately I worked whilst studying at university so lived at home and missed out on the whole student experience- I’m envious of those students who get to stay at one of our buildings and enjoy the whole university experience!