In collaboration with the HE Sector, Unite Students, the UK’s leading provider of student accommodation, is working to help improve student resilience and welfare. Central to this work in 2016 has been the company’s independent Student Insight Report.

Unite Students has continued to work closely with the HE sector at both the national and institutional level to improve outcomes for students through its resilience and welfare work. This included initiatives such as introducing its own student services function offering practical and emotional support and signposting to students facing challenging situations; the establishment of the Student Life Hub online resource; and the introduction of trained welfare leads in each city working closely with university student services teams to identify and help students in distress.

“An important element in developing these initiatives has been Unite Students annual Student Insight Report – an independent survey of students which aims to explore non-academic elements of student life and how these impact on the university experience. In 2016, the Student Insight survey proved central to building greater understanding of student resilience.”

“We first commissioned the Insight survey in 2012,” said Jenny Shaw, Head of HE Engagement and Student Services at Unite Students. “and since then, the survey has broadened in scope. During conversations with AMOSSHE, it became clear that the survey could play a central role in providing insight into student resilience and its role in wellbeing and success.”

The 2016 Student Insight Report survey was expanded, with the issues of resilience and wellbeing at its core. Conducted independently by YouGov and YouthSight, and developed in partnership with HE Sector partners, the 2016 survey embraced the views of 6,504 current students and 2,169 applicants. It included contributions to question design and results interpretation from AMOSSHE, AGCAS, NASMA, CUBO and Wonkhe, while HEPI also contributed to the final report and played a major role in its launch.

“Essentially, it was the first national survey on the subject of student resilience,” confirms Jenny, “and so it was important that we try to define student resilience in a systematic way, linking it to life satisfaction, retention and positive outcomes. It gave us a chance to look at what resilience really means and what can be done to enhance it.”

The report encouraged Unite to develop new digital content around resilience for the Student Life Hub used by some universities with their first year students. Meanwhile, in partnership with AMOSSHE, Unite sponsored the development of a student resilience toolkit for the HE sector. “Unite Students has taken the findings from the Insight Report research and applied them to our own student proposition, particularly pre-arrival and in the first few weeks,” says John Blanshard, Student Experience Director at Unite Students.

“The report emphasised the importance of the social side of student life in building resilience, so communications and practical support from us will be much more visible and focused on ways in which we can help students integrate well in their accommodation and build a good social network. This will play a role in helping them get the most from student life, and to deal with any setbacks along the way.”

Based on the report findings, Unite Students is now working in partnership with a number of universities, including Leeds Beckett and UWE, on developing new strategies to support first year retention for students who live in its halls.