This article was originally published on CUBO.org.uk.
Back in 2015, Student.com’s CEO Luke Nolan met then CUBO Chair Alison Smith, to learn that most CUBO members thought we were trying to “steal their students and stop them living in university halls”. It was a fairly salutary lesson in how, by saying nothing, you can leave a dangerous void to be filled by imagination and rumour.
In our early years, Student.com was a small, committed team, with a clear mission of making it easier for international students to find a safe place to stay during their studies. Our efforts were focused on ensuring that students from Shanghai to Seattle understood who we are, what we do, and how we can help them. What we hadn’t considered, when we started making bold claims about disrupting the industry, and changing the sector for the better, was the real anxiety we were creating.
Since then, we’ve been on a bit of a mission to set the record straight: to clarify what we actually do (and don’t!) and how we can work with universities – to add value for you and your students.
Here are four ways we support universities:
1. Listing on-campus rooms on Student.com
For cities like Sheffield, we list on campus options alongside private purpose-built student accommodation. This is something we would dearly love to do across all of the cities we cover on Student.com, if universities would consider it.
Working in partnership with the University of Sheffield has been a true pleasure – and as it means we are presenting an even wider choice for students, we couldn’t be happier. That said, we understand that this option wouldn’t necessary appeal to UK universities that don’t have enough on campus accommodation – but there are a few other ways that we can help.
2. A safe port of call to direct students to
When there are no on campus options for students, for whatever reason, they then have to navigate the private sector and make a choice as best they can. For international students, this process is even more difficult due to language barriers and a lack of knowledge of a city.
Student.com is a safe port of call for universities to point these students to when they need more help and advice. Every day, students around the world use Student.com to compare a wide range of options in their chosen city, in their own language, and then talk to a booking consultant (again, in their own language) who can guide them through the process of making a shortlist and booking a room.
3. Re-marketing unfilled nominations
Our strength as a platform can also benefit universities when it comes to nominations in the private sector.
Nominating rooms, or even entire buildings, is a necessary part of most universities’ accommodation strategies, but it comes with financial risk. If, for whatever reason, there is a surplus of nominated rooms, this can be very costly. Some universities are choosing to mitigate that risk by working with Student.com, to market their empty nominated rooms on our platform.
4. Sharing strategic insights through data
We also love data, and we have a lot of it! Because we help students from all over the world (more than 120 countries just last year), we have a wealth of information about trends between different nationalities, across different cities, price ranges, preferences and times of year. We’d be delighted to talk you through some of our key learnings for your city.
To be clear, we have absolutely no desire or intention to stop students from living in on-campus accommodation. It is, without question, the best option for most students, for a whole range of reasons – pastoral care and inclusion being chief amongst them.
What we aim to do is better serve international students who cannot access on campus accommodation – either because they missed the application deadline, are not eligible as postgraduates or returning students, or simply because their level of English (or that of their parents) left them feeling unable to navigate the university accommodation application process.