Last week, we were invited to open a ministerial roundtable on the subject of student accommodation. Through our work on our Student Living Report and the upcoming University Mental Health Charter, we have explored the connection between a student’s accommodation and their mental wellbeing. The meeting, held on October 28th, was a welcome intervention, bringing together a range of stakeholders including universities, student representatives and private accommodation providers.
We were pleased to find consensus in the room that student welfare needed to be at the heart of any decision surrounding student accommodation. We highlighted the importance of consistent referral pathways across university-owned and private properties, appropriate support for front line staff, and the value of strong, supportive student communities. We also noted how living in unaffordable accommodation places undue burden on students.
Jenny Smith, Policy Manager at Student Minds, said:
“The window at which the majority of mental health conditions present coincides with the window where most students begin their university journey. This is a period of significant transition. A student might be in a new city or country, often away from their established support networks. They might be struggling in their new academic environment, or finding that the university experience is not meeting their expectations. In this period it is crucial not to introduce further instability to their life, which is what happens when providers fail to complete buildings on time.”
We hope this meeting signals a shift in the sector dialogue regarding student accommodation and starts a move towards accommodation that is quality, safe, and affordable for every student.
Look out for our University Mental Health Charter, published December 9th, which will provide a set of principles outlining good practice in improving mental health and wellbeing outcomes for the whole university community.