18 Jul 2019

Policy area: Student accommodation

David Tymms, Chair of the BPF Purpose-Built student Accommodation Committee and Commercial Director at iQ Student Accommodation and Jenny Shaw, Student Experience Director at Unite Students discuss our best practice guidance published this week for the student accommodation sector.

This week marked the end of one chapter and beginning of a new one. After a year of research, discussion and collaboration, the British Property Federation and partners published a mental health and wellbeing guide for the student accommodation sector.

With university students increasingly reporting feeling stressed, depressed and under strain, the guide, which has been led by the BPF’s Purpose-Built Student Accommodation Committee, in partnership with the higher education sector and includes expert insight from mental health and wellbeing charities, is built on research that shines a light on needs of students who experience challenges to their wellbeing and mental health while living away from home.

The PBSA sector plays an important role in students’ lives: providing a home away from home at a really critical and formative time. As a sector we have learnt so much about what does and doesn’t work when it comes to supporting student wellbeing – and we believe it’s high time to draw our knowledge and expertise together as a guide for all, and to work towards setting industry-wide standards.

But student wellbeing is a complex issue that no one group can address on its own.  Only by working together and in partnership can the PBSA sector hope to contribute and play our small but vital role in supporting student wellbeing at university. Partnership is an underlying principle of the guide:

  • Partnership with the HE sector is vital to tap into local needs, relevant provision, gaps to be aware of and learnings from those closest to students. 
  • Partnership with mental health and wellbeing charities, such as Nightline (with whom iQ and Unite both partner) to bring vital services to students that may not be otherwise available to them.
  • Partnership with Government, such as the Department for Education, who have endorsed this guide, and its ambition to offer students the best possible environments in which to live and work.
  • Partnership with our people, to ensure those on the front line are able to respond effectively to student wellbeing concerns. And most importantly, partnership with students, our residents, to ensure anything we do in this space is informed directly by their experience and tailored to their needs. 

We are delighted therefore that this guide is now freely available to help drive up standards of practice across our sector.

Working together, working in partnerships really matters when it comes to supporting student wellbeing. By working in this way, by building trust, we can all improve outcomes for students all across the UK, helping to increase resilience and improve their wellbeing as they experience life in – and prepare for life beyond – university.

We sincerely hope the recommendations and best practice highlighted in this guide will make it the ‘go to’ document for PBSA providers when developing wellbeing policy and procedure and further that it will provide a framework for universities and providers to work to as they build formal and informal agreements to work with one another.

Unipol are currently consulting on the imposition of wellbeing and mental health provisions into the National Code. You can find out more about the consultation here.