CUBO Summer Conference 2021

Leadership comes first: essential lessons from unprecedented times

Summer Conference 2021 Round-Up

Throughout the pandemic, university accommodation, catering, hospitality, sports, events and other campus services have faced unprecedented challenges. And now, blended learning, flexible working, government policy, student numbers and technological change will all affect future service delivery. Our Summer Conference 2021 set out to give the CUBO community the business agility, leadership techniques and sector knowledge to succeed in the new era.







The action-packed first day provided plenty of food for thought. CUBO chair Jo Hardman and CEO Jan Capper outlined recent activities and future plans under the three strategic themes of Lead, Develop and Connect. Expect a blend of f2f and virtual learning and networking, plus more research, best practice sharing and sector representation.

Political journalist Nick Watt then set the wider context of the current political landscape and its impact on higher education, from transitioning out of the pandemic towards a more normal economy, to political attitudes on the 50% target for higher education set by the Blair government.


Kate Nicholls, CEO of UK Hospitality, shared her insights on how the hospitality sector can return to full strength. High quality and vibrant hospitality offers will be a key differentiator in the post-pandemic world, she said.

From the Beano Brain consultancy, we learned how Generation Alpha – students of the future - are developing and changing the world by stealth. We heard how sports on campus can evolve through digital innovations like wearable tech and gamification. An alternative model for blending hotels and student living was presented by Frank Uffen from The Student Hotel, while the Innovation Network provided a fresh approach to identifying and exploiting new commercial opportunities.

Day one rounded off with the much-anticipated panel debate on the future of student accommodation. Moderated by Nick Watt, the panel of Nick Hillman, Director of HEPI, Sarah Jones, Cushman and Wakefield, Sarah Randall Paley, Director of Finance at Lancaster University and Dean Spears, Director of Campus Facilities, University of York, discussed the sector’s approach to rent rebates, private and public provision and the impact of the pandemic on the future development and structure of the student accommodation sector, finding that there may be less disruption to the current model than we think…

Day two started with a unique, empowering energizer and wellbeing session broadcast from Mexico by Bami Kuteyi of BamBam Boogie, whose clients include Google and the University of the Arts. London.

Leadership was a key theme of this conference and the importance of relationships was stressed again and again: by strategy coach Terez Rijkenberg in her keynote on leading through periods of ambiguity, in Louise Edwards-Holland’s tips for building resilient teams and in Rody Vonk‘s comprehensive model of effective stakeholder management.


James Tiernan from Unite Students presented research into student attitudes to climate change and outlined how to make student accommodation more sustainable. Members looking forward to re-energize their campus catering offer could take inspiration from Gavin Brown, CEO of Leicester Services Partnership, whose Astrovan loaded fries got the thumbs up on social media.

We learned how Mind's Mentally Healthy Universities Programme can help universities to prioritise and promote an open culture around mental health to reduce the stigma that often prevents people from seeking help.

And we heard that conferencing will return, but not quite as we know it. Warwick Events Services showed us why hybrid events may be the future of the sector and how to use features like gamification, live meetings and interactivity to bring live and virtual audiences together.

That interactivity was demonstrated perfectly in the final, high-energy presentation from David Meade on the psychology of #leadership. David took delegates on a lively tour of the growth mindset via Torvill & Dean, a lightbulb factory and personalised chocolate rewards, with various CUBO members making an appearance beside David on the main stage!


Thank you to our sponsors and partners

Thanks to our Platinum sponsors, Unite StudentsWarwick Event Services and UPP, and all Gold sponsors/exhibitors. Effective commercial partnerships will be ever more important as we move forward to meet the challenges ahead.


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