CUBO Awards 2024

The Shortlist!

The CUBO Awards 2024 Shortlist

Recognising excellence in university and college commercial services


Campus Experience of the Year

University of Warwick

Newcastle University

Warwick wanted to relaunch its graduation day as something truly memorable. Following the pandemic, it took the opportunity to create a personal moment for graduates; extend the celebration, and connect with graduates. 

Improvements included an enhanced remote viewing experience for those who couldn’t attend in person, and a celebration zone to keep the party going.

Overall, 90% of those attending enjoyed their day and remote viewing allowed 45% more to celebrate. 


Newcastle’s reslife team launched the Give it a Grow allotment project at its Bowsden Court site, aiming to grow food, improve sustainability, and engage with the community.

As well as providing a source of healthy food, the allotment helps to tackle the social isolation that some students may feel being based on the outskirts of Newcastle. The new activity provides a chance for people to come together to learn new skills. 


Innovation in Student Experience

Lancaster University

Queen's University Belfast

University College London

Lancaster University opened a sustainable shop ReStore, in collaboration with local charity, St John’s Hospice, and Green Lancaster.

ReStore provides second-hand, upcycled and more environmentally responsible products, with goods sourced from the Don’t Ditch Its programme which collects unwanted household items from students to be resold to new students. So far, 31.7 tons of items have been diverted from landfill.

In its first six months, £60,000 has been taken in sales.


2023 was the first full year of operation for One Elmwood, the new student centre and students’ union at Queen’s that brings together the SU and University Student Services (ESS) offering a range of services in the heart of the campus.

As well as being a centre for enhanced collaboration between the SU and ESS, the centre has become a hub for student led activity, including entrepreneurship and skills development, volunteering, and events. 


UCL has developed a strategy to deliver wellbeing events across London’s largest campus university. The approach ensures a holistic and non-stigmatising approach across accommodation, classrooms, and campuses (ACC).

The events aim to help students develop SSW – social bonding, skills for life, and wellbeing – so that they build their own support systems. 

In all, 50 events were held, drawing expertise from across specialisms to be as inclusive as the diverse UCL family. 


Creativity in Catering and Retail

University of East Anglia

University of Leicester

Ulster University 

Originally a pop-up, UEA’s Zest Supper Club ran for 18-weeks to support UEA students and staff through the cost-of-living crisis. Evening discounts of 65% saw business grow by 15 times and income leapt from an average of £150 to £2.3k per session.  

Looking ahead, the university retains the commitment to providing both value for money and a great dining experience with promotions including half price deals on vegan food and seafood. 


Leicester used Black History Month (BHM) to demonstrate how diversity makes a community stronger, and how food and drink brings people together.

It raised awareness of Black Food Innovators across its 13 food and drink outlets with a QR code at food outlets linking back to a webpage highlighting the Innovators. 

A new menu in the Caribbean-inspired Soul outlet was introduced featuring Soul Fried Chicken with sales doubling during BHM.


Launched in 2022 with Compass Ireland, VERT Café is Ireland’s first campus university restaurant offering a totally plant-based menu. 

Social media influencer Holly White helped develop the dishes and hosted a series of events promoting a healthier lifestyle through plant based eating.

Since launching, VERT has received a 6.5 average net promoter score (NPS) and an overall satisfaction score of 9, which is considered ‘exceptional’ in NPS terms. 


Best Residence Life Experience

University of the Arts London

Loughborough University 


UAL’s HALLS Life ethos provides students with the support they need while bringing them into the heart of decision making.

With the student cohort being brilliantly diverse, HALLS Life has responded by recruiting EDI student leads who mirror this diversity and look out for marginalised groups.

Driven by students, HALLS Life has introduced a wellbeing programme as well as engaging with external partners to create a supportive environment for all.


The Loughborough residence life experience is about the people who create the unique feeling of being a student at the university.

Strong hall identity creates a community and trust resulting in lifelong associations. Students become closely involved in hall life, from organising events to redesigning common rooms.

Residential services, student teams and wardens take care in embedding this sense of pride and belonging which results in 30% returner applications each year.


LSE’s residential life team has a sector-leading approach to supporting a diversity of students with generous bursaries.

For 10 years LSE has used student feedback to keep its finger on the pulse of what students want. In 2022-23, 90% of students enjoyed staying at LSE.

Student Hall committees have also been at the heart of decision making including pressing for free sanitary products and the trial of reuse and refill stations. 


Excellence in Student Sports Experience

University of Surrey

University of Nottingham

Queen's University Belfast

Surrey’s GradSport aims to give its alumni a chance to taste sporting endeavour again, in the company of current students.

Since 2014 it has run a day of competitive sport that now covers 31 different activities across 44 fixtures, raising funds for current sports clubs.

In 2023-24 £65,697 was awarded to 13 clubs. Funds have helped pay for a rowing boat, boxing ring and multisport wheelchairs. 


Nottingham’s ambition to become the UK’s best university for sport and wellbeing has been backed by a programme extending access to all.

With a target of engaging 66% of students, it has undertaken ambitious projects to encourage Black and disabled students’ participation, as well as helping those on lower incomes enjoy sport. 

Empower events have helped build female participation and staff have received training addressing racism, LGBTQ+ awareness, and mental health.


Queen’s Active Campus programme has transformed the sports experience, enhancing participation, health and wellbeing. Its diverse range of sports and activities has helped encourage staff and students to adopt an active lifestyle and volunteer ethos.

Four levels of Active Campus provide appropriate levels of participation so there is something for everyone irrespective of their prowess or health. Taster sessions, outreach programmes and discounted memberships have all helped boost participation.


Innovation in Student Housing

University of Essex

London South Bank University 

University of the West of England Bristol

Essex undertook research to discover what kind of community groups students wanted in their accommodation.

From this the university evolved its LGTBQ+ accommodation offering, as well as creating Athlete Village, Start-up Square, and Volunteering Square.

Each accommodation package was tailored to these groups to give students a sense of belonging as soon as they arrived.

The overall objective is to create a welcoming and inclusive environment driven by student feedback.


LSBU, the Residential Community Team (RCT), and Thrive, the wellbeing team, have collaborated to ensure students in their halls experience a ‘home away from home’.

Through a series of materials they aim to help students develop the life skills that will help them get the most from their university experience.

These guides and welcome packs help prompt early lines of communication with residents, to enhance the accommodation experience. 


Purdown View is UWE’s newest hall, built with Passivhaus technology – one of the first in the UK university accommodation sector. Its ultramodern, innovative and sustainable technology points the way for future projects at the university.

The housing is designed to meet 2030 net zero goals, as well as helping students easily create communities. Spaces for quiet study have been built in, alongside communal aspects such as laundry and activity studios.


Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion Spotlight

The University of Sheffield

University of the Arts London

University of Nottingham

Sheffield’s ‘One University’ strategy puts EDI at the forefront of planning, ensuring targets are defined by such characteristics as race, LGBT+, faith, religion, disability and gender.

This holistic approach has fed through into inclusive events for specific groups, as well as accommodation strategies that have been tailored for LGBT+ and neurodivergent students. 

There is an ongoing commitment to seeking student voices, engaging with residents and the SU to co-design services.


UAL responded to LGBTQ+ students need for more support with an EDI group that has driven changes.
These included comprehensive pronoun training and pronoun badges, plus neurodiversity awareness training for staff and students.

LGBTQ+ life has been celebrated with the Queer Peers Podcast showcasing queer student life in London. UAL has also attended various Pride events, launched a Trans ambassador programme, and encouraged a supplier to extend maternity leave to surrogacy and adoption. 


Research showed that Black students who do sport saw a 3.6% increase in attainment, so Nottingham introduced a plan to get more involved.

It recruited a Black Student Sports Officer who developed a plan to counter barriers to participation around the areas of cost, culture, and representation.

Interventions included financial assistance, Black ambassadors and volunteers, equality training, and a celebration of Black Sporting icons. Black student engagement is up by 43%. 


Creativity in Conferencing, Events and Hospitality

Queen's University Belfast

University of Leicester

University of Birmingham

Queen’s University Belfast had to deliver its largest and most ambitious event ever – the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

It took 18 months to plan the event with a creative, collaborative and agile approach needed from the events and campus food and drinks team.

The proud, professional and progressive team delivered a world class event that had a huge international reach and showed Queen’s at its best.


By bringing the University Botanical Gardens into its portfolio, the University of Leicester has added a flexible new space that has driven revenue and helped increase engagement with the local community.

With a permanent licence for outdoor events, eight large scale outdoor events planned for the summer. Revenue for July 2023 alone was almost £300,000, representing the steepest year on year increase in 10 years, and hopes are high for 2024.


Birmingham turned its campus into an athletes’ village for the 2023 IBSA World Blind Games, welcoming 1,250 competitors and 800 officials.

The conference and events team had to make the campus as accessible as possible. This included adding colour contrast strips to steps, making tactile toilet signs, providing online accommodation guides, and training its staff.

As the culmination of 12 months’ planning, the Games were a great source of pride.


Business Partnership of the Year

University of Manchester and Hazaar

University of Southampton and Washco

DMU & Shree Krishna Vada Pav (SKVP)

End of term can be a time of huge waste as students offload items that they no longer need. By teaming up with marketplace Hazaar, Manchester was able to give items an extended life, help new students kit out flats cheaply, and decrease the amount of stuff going to landfill.

The partnership was so successful that Manchester expanded it to include six times the number of beds for 2024.  


Southampton introduced a new rent model that included laundry costs as part of the deal.

The ‘free at the point of use’ model appealed to students at a time when budgets were stretched as rents increased by an average of 7%. 

Partner Washco introduced auto-dosing which cut detergent wastage and single use plastics. Cold wash blind tests rated highly for quality by students, further helping with sustainability objectives. 


Research showed customers at DMU were looking for more plant-based offerings, digital ordering and a more diverse culinary experience. 

In response, the university linked with Indian catering specialist SKVP to overhaul its existing campus Riverside café.

As well as offering flavoursome vegetarian and vegan options, and slick online ordering, SKVP has become a hub for cultural exchange and community engagement. Meanwhile, sales have increased by 80%. 


Best Marketing Campaign

The University of Warwick

University of Leeds

Keele University

Warwick’s Campus and Commercial Services Group (CCSG) launched an ambitious and cross-institutional Welcome Week to help familiarise first year students with its varied services including sport, arts, food and employment groups.

Working collaboratively, CCSG built engagement with students, including before arrival, promoting a range of events and activities designed to support student integration and campus familiarisation. 

Post-campaign research showed more students to be aware of and using services.


University of Leeds needed to rebuild its Sport & Physical Activity (SPA) volunteering network following Covid. 

Research showed that students valued personalised digital content that came from fellow students, so it used photography and film of real students explaining what volunteering meant to them.

Alongside this a streamlined signup process also helped attract volunteers resulting in an increase in numbers of 137% (275) and a 192% increase in the value of volunteering.


Keele sought to address a post-Covid slump in sales of its flagship catering outlet, CENTRAL Kitchen. 

Using research to improve the customer experience, a marketing plan raised awareness of the tasty options at CENTRAL through activities including emails, social, advertising, and promotions.

The area was also rebranded as The Kitchen Table with a new look and an improved mobile ordering app. YOY sales were up by 53% on 2022. 


2024 Judges

Many thanks to our 2024 judges:

CUBO Awards Night

Join us as we celebrate the best of commercial and campus services in style! The 2024 CUBO Awards take place on 13 June during CUBO Summer Conference at Queen's University Belfast from 12-14 June.




















A fantastic platform to showcase the hard work of university commercial staff. University commercial services are an essential part of the student’s life, with most of their personal time being spent in halls, retail outlets, cafes, and canteens. It is a place for them to call home, make lifelong friends and memories. The awards are critical to motivate and reward hard-working staff in the commercial areas within the context of the wider university. You cannot underestimate the buzz and encouragement winning an award gives the teams that work tirelessly to improve the student experience.

Jane Donachy - Associate Director of Catering, Retail and Accommodation Services, UAL and CUBO Honorary Member


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