International study tours and conferences...

International study tours and conferences… you really do have to participate

Richard Kington, Director, Accommodation Services at the University of Edinburgh explains why

No time… not enough staff… too expensive. All too often these are reasons used to explain an inability to engage in what are increasingly essential learning opportunities. Often those charged with providing student accommodation and services recognise the need to learn from others but are hampered for different reasons including by those holding the purse strings. I would contend that if an Institution believes the student’s residential experience to be important then it has to provide their accommodation team with the time, resource and encouragement to go out and learn from others so that they in turn can improve the experience of their own students.

There are an increasing number of opportunities available to learn from thousands of our peers overseas who have often been providing a residential experience to their students that too many UK Universities can still only dream of. Learning from International Study Tours & Conferences is no longer just a desirable. It is essential for any University truly serious about providing their students with the best residential experience possible.

Accommodation teams need to be allowed to learn from what is happening elsewhere. To understand more about the overseas students we are all trying to attract. To learn more about our competitors who are often vying for the same students, including our own home students. There is only one certainty about International competition – it will continue to grow and we must adapt and improve to remain competitive.

We cannot afford to provide our students ­– home or overseas – with a lesser experience than that being provided elsewhere. We must learn from those who have long recognised the importance of Residence Life as a central part of the accommodation, indeed the overall University experience.We are very fortunate in that we are part of a global housing profession with many international colleagues eager to share information and experiences.

The benefits from a well-developed Residence Life experience are not restricted to non-UK students – home students also benefit significantly and this adds to the attractiveness of our Universities. Residence Life is as much about preparing students for what is to come as it is about helping them get the best from their university experience. And there is much overseas evidence that a well-supported accommodation experience benefits retention rates and academic outcomes.

International study tours and conferences are not jollies or somehow a lesser learning experience. They are hard work but provide unique opportunities to engage with those from many other countries. To learn from them as they will from you. Not just about the services they provide but the way new accommodation is being developed. 

And the starting point for this learning journey - is one of the best. Study tours and a range of conference opportunities are just part of the offer. There is much more available on line plus the chance to make valuable global networking opportunities. And membership fees are low and benefits available to all in your team.

Twenty two CUBO members already understand the benefits of Acuho-I membership. Learning much from our overseas colleagues they are already moving their student residential experience to a whole new level. 

The investment needed to further improve the residential and university experience provided to students is so very small in comparison to the income generated and the benefits to students, staff and the University can be really significant. Can you really afford not to engage? 

Richard Kington is also CUBO Executive Lead for International relations, Chair elect of Acuho-I Membership Committee and 2014 recipient of the Acuho-I Roelf Visser Global Initiatives Award.