The future of student accommodation: Integrated, flexible, sustainable

07 May 2021
By Paul Sweeney, Chief Strategy Officer at Unite Students
Our recent Accommodation Matters podcast episode looked at the future of Higher Education - including how changes such as digital learning, microcredentials and lifelong learning will impact on student accommodation. Paul Sweeney, podcast guest and Chief Strategy Officer at Unite Students, shares just a taster of some of Unite Students’ priorities for the future.

The living experience that students have at university is more important now than ever. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the fundamental importance of the basics - well-managed, safe, and secure accommodation with the reliable high-speed connectivity that supports the delivery of online elements of the learning experience.

But the pandemic has also highlighted the wellbeing benefits of community and access to great amenity. In thinking about the community aspects of the next generation of student living, we are exploring how to integrate more closely into vibrant mixed-use communities than could include undergraduates, postgraduates, and young professionals in addition to flexible learning, work and commercial space. This will support the creation of unique and special places with their own identity.

We are developing new designs in response to the changes in how we learn, work and live. Flexibility is a key theme. Multiple options for study space, social space, and the flexibility to switch uses – for example having more study space closer to end of year exams. Great outdoor spaces have the ability to enhance health and wellbeing, and these are being designed with multiple uses in mind.

Living sustainably is also high on our agenda. The next student generations (Gen Z and Gen Alpha) are the most socially and environmentally conscious generations ever. Our ambitions are aligned. We are committed to clear carbon reduction targets both in the construction of our buildings and in the carbon footprint of living in our buildings and we will continue to actively engage with our student community to deliver innovative ways to support this shared agenda. 

For Unite Students, the future of student living will see greater integration into vibrant communities, design that is flexible in response to changing needs, and an increased focus on sustainable development and living.

Hear more from Paul on the latest episode of Accommodation Matters. You can subscribe and listen now from SpotifyGoogleAmazonApple Podcasts, or below through Podbean:

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Paul is the Chief Strategy Officer at Unite. Prior to joining the business, Paul was an external strategy advisor and implementation partner for multiple FTSE100 & FTSE250 businesses in a variety of sectors including real estate, financial services, and the creative industries. He holds an MBA from London Business School and has a deep interest in human systems thinking, innovation and organisational culture.