Living Black at University Conference Report

08 March 2023      Jan Capper, CUBO Executive Director

The first Unite Students Living Black at University Conference took place at Newcastle University on 7th March.

The free event, delivered in partnership with CUBO, discussed the findings and recommendations from the Unite Students Living Black at University report and how universities, accommodation providers and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) leads in the HE sector can take ownership of actions that support the creation of a more equitable environment where Black students can thrive.

The venue was King’s Hall at Newcastle University, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr received his honorary doctorate in 1967.

Living Black at University

Published in February 2022, Living Black at University was the first research report to look into the experiences of Black students in UK student accommodation. There were some challenging findings, but also ten clear recommendations for making student accommodation a place where Black students are safe and feel they belong.

The report acknowledged that student accommodation plays a significant role in Black students’ university experience, satisfaction and overall wellbeing.

Creating meaningful change

The first recommendation from the report is that “universities and accommodation providers should collaborate to eliminate racism from all areas of the student experience.” To this aim, Unite Students are partnering with HE sector bodies and universities to launch the Unite Students Commission on Living Black at University, whose aim is to support organisations to embed these recommendations in their policies, practices and processes.

The conference was the Commission’s first networking event, with Commission members, including CUBO Board Lead for Learning & Development, Melissa Browne (University of Kent), presenting on topics and themes discussed by the Commission over the past year.

Delegates also had the opportunity to experience training being rolled out across Unite Students. Designed specifically for those in management roles in student accommodation, the training delivered skills on conscious inclusion, leading inclusively, managing a diverse team and designing inclusive spaces for students.

Speaking after the conference, Melissa Browne said: “I cannot express how proud I was to present with Rebecca O'Hare on the Commission’s tips and actions that institutions should take to give Black students a sense of belonging in their student accommodation.

"Today’s conference gave all who attended a space to discuss and better understand the findings and recommendations of the report. Everyone was challenged to go back to their institutions to make meaningful change for Black students. The only way we can fail our students is by doing nothing!”

Among many inspirational speakers and student panels, keynote speaker Professor Iyiola Solanke summed up the importance of the student experience in student accommodation:

"𝐅𝐞𝐞𝐥𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐥𝐢𝐤𝐞 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐛𝐞𝐥𝐨𝐧𝐠 𝐚𝐭 𝐮𝐧𝐢𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐬𝐢𝐭𝐲, 𝐬𝐢𝐦𝐩𝐥𝐲 𝐝𝐞𝐟𝐢𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐚𝐬 𝐲𝐨𝐮’𝐫𝐞 𝐦𝐞𝐚𝐧𝐭 𝐭𝐨 𝐛𝐞 𝐭𝐡𝐞𝐫𝐞 – 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐢𝐭’𝐬 𝐝𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐠𝐧𝐞𝐝 𝐰𝐢𝐭𝐡 𝐲𝐨𝐮 𝐢𝐧 𝐦𝐢𝐧𝐝 – 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐫𝐞𝐚𝐥𝐥𝐲 𝐛𝐞 𝐬𝐨𝐦𝐞𝐭𝐡𝐢𝐧𝐠 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐞𝐯𝐞𝐫𝐲 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭 𝐬𝐡𝐨𝐮𝐥𝐝 𝐭𝐚𝐤𝐞 𝐟𝐨𝐫 𝐠𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐞𝐝, 𝐛𝐮𝐭 𝐬𝐚𝐝𝐥𝐲 𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐲 𝐁𝐥𝐚𝐜𝐤 𝐬𝐭𝐮𝐝𝐞𝐧𝐭𝐬 𝐝𝐨𝐧’𝐭 𝐟𝐞𝐞𝐥 𝐭𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐰𝐚𝐲."

Unite Students and CUBO are organising a follow-up round table for CUBO members and partners in April. Details will appear on this website.

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