Residence Life Conference 2021 Round-Up

The 2021 CUBO Residence Life Conference attracted record delegates, in a year in which student wellbeing in halls of residence found itself under the spotlight.

Before Covid-19, residence life programmes went under the radar at many universities, their impact on student wellbeing and retention not always fully appreciated. But since March 2020, these programmes of events and support for students in - and sometimes outside of - halls of residence have played a more crucial role than ever, creating stronger, supportive communities despite the challenges and restrictions imposed by the pandemic.

CUBO's third residence life conference, inevitably virtual in 2021, included 12 informative sessions for reslife professionals, most drawing on direct experience from the pandemic. Topics included gender, diversity and inclusion, managing anti-social behaviour and incidents of sexual violence, mental health, international students and how to develop residence life programmes.

Sponsored by Unite Students and UPP, the conference drew over 130 delegates from university and private purpose-built student accommodation. There was lunchtime networking in Zoom Rooms, and a unique diversity, inclusion, wellbeing and productivity energiser with Bami Kuteyi of international dance fitness brand Bam Bam Boogie.

The conference heard from Rosie Tressler OBE, chief executive of Student Minds, on the charity’s development of online support for students during the pandemic, and their research showing students were more likely than the general population to feel anxious, unable to cope and experience self-harm. “This pandemic has shown what CUBO and residential life professionals have been advocating to be true - how important reslife and community building are in universities,” she said.


An insightful and inclusive conference that ticked every box. Great opportunity to increase knowledge and understanding to ensure we are future ready to meet the needs of students of today.

Leon Runham-Cuenca, London South Bank University

Tony Coggins of Thrive Wellbeing Consultancy also focused on student wellbeing, in a presentation of the approach taken at Kooloobong Village at the University of Wollongong in Australia to systematically identify how living in university accommodation impacts on mental health and wellbeing, and the approaches developed to maximise positive and minimise the negative.

Diversity and inclusion also emerged as crucial issues in the student residential experience. Delegates heard from Blu, a non-binary male and Tommi, a trans woman, about their mixed experiences at university in a session facilitated by the Dead Earnest Theatre Company, while The University of Sheffield’s Betty Ayika and University of the Arts’ Hazel-Marie Francis outlined how their reslife programmes are working to improve diversity and inclusion.

Studying far from home presents additional challenges for international students. Oliver Harrison, creative director at Campuslife, presented recent research into understanding the needs of Chinese students and faciliated a Q&A with two Chinese students currently in the UK.

The Closing Plenary Session with ACUHO-I brought together a number of the conference’s themes, as Liz Gordon-Canlas of Columbus College of Art and Design took delegates through some new ways of ensuring that the voice of every student is heard.

CUBO RA Awards

The 2021 CUBO RA Awards took place on the evening of 4 May, when eight university students were recognised for their outstanding work as Residence Assistants over the last year. On the same evening, Tom Martin, head of residency living at Sodexo, was presented with the CUBO/Acuho-i Residence Life New Professional award.

All the winners contributed to the conference. The RAs shared their unique perspective of residence life in a panel discussion moderated by James Greenwood, Student Experience Manager at the University of the Arts. London and Chair of the CUBO Residence Life Group. Tom Martin hosted a session on managing antisocial behaviour in residences, including initiatives and campaigns that have helped to tackle student Covid breaches.

“We are delighted that so many residence life professionals could benefit from the multiple learning and networking opportunities at the conference, and at the positive feedback,” said Jan Capper, CUBO chief executive. “Covid-19 has highlighted just how important residence life is to student wellbeing and learning, and the new CUBO Residential Life and Student Experience special interest group will be taking forward many of the issues flagged by this conference.”

The 2021 CUBO Residence Life Conference and RA Awards were sponsored by:


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